Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope that all of you are having a meaningful days with your families and friends. The baseball offseason, though, breaks for no holiday.
Earlier this week, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced the ballot for the Class of 2019. The ballot features many of the same names as in the past, but now includes the addition of a handful of interesting first-timers.
One player who will appear on the ballot for the first time this year is right-handed starting pitcher Roy Halladay. Halladay, as many of you likely know, tragically passed away last November in a plane crash off Florida’s coast. He was 40. (Halladay’s death was shocking and sad, especially for me. He was my favorite player when I was a little kid, and I idolized him. It was really hard to hear of his passing.)
As Halladay’s name now appears on the Hall of Fame ballot, it’s time to assess his odds of being inducted.
Halladay pitched in 16 different seasons during his time in the Majors, but only in nine of those did he pitch more than 150 innings.
A coveted prospect, Halladay was first drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round of the 1995 MLB Draft, foregoing his commitment to the University of Arizona to sign. His Major League career did not start as he hoped, making the team first as a September call-up in 1998 but struggling. Over Halladay’s first 57 appearances (33 starts), he posted a 5.77 ERA and a 139 to 123 K/BB ratio over 231 innings. In 2000, Halladay posted a 10.64 ERA, the worst single-season ERA of any pitcher in MLB history with at least 50 innings pitched.
Because of this historically awful start to his career, the Blue Jays optioned Halladay down to Class A in order to overhaul his delivery. Working with former Blue Jays pitching coach Mel Queen, Halladay developed his signature three-quarters delivery to focus on developing pitches with more sink and movement. The rest, as they say, is history.
Halladay rejoined the Blue Jays’ rotation in 2001, and by 2002, he was already named to his first of eight total All-Star teams. In 2003, Halladay took home the AL Cy Young award, going 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA over 266 innings. He threw nine complete games, including the first extra inning shutout since Jack Morris in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
Halladay went on to have an incredibly successful career with Toronto, posting a 3.13 ERA and a 1,260 to 307 K/BB ratio across the eight seasons since officially rejoining the rotation in 2002. In addition to his 2003 Cy Young award, Halladay finished in second, third and fifth (twice) in the voting during his time in Canada.
The Phillies famously traded for Halladay during the 2009-2010 offseason, and in 2010, he went on to have one of the most historic years by a single starting pitcher in Major League Baseball history. Not only did Halladay win the Cy Young award once again, becoming just the fifth pitcher to win in both leagues, Halladay threw a perfect game on May 29 and a postseason no-hitter on Oct. 6. He became just the second pitcher in baseball history to throw a no-hitter in the postseason (Don Larsen threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series) with his shutout of the Reds in the NLDS.
Halladay had two phenomenal years in Philadelphia, winning the NL Cy Young in 2010 and finishing second in 2011. He threw 484 1⁄3 innings over those two seasons, posting a 2.40 ERA and a 439 to 65 K/BB ratio. His 14.4 fWAR over those two seasons was (understandably) tops in baseball, 0.6 of a win above teammate Cliff Lee’s.
Shoulder issues limited Halladay in both 2012 and 2013. On Dec. 9, 2013, Halladay signed a ceremonial one-day contract with the Blue Jays and officially retired, citing back issues and a desire to be more involved with his family.
Where does he stack up?
This was just a quick synopsis of Halladay’s career, with some interesting details sprinkled throughout. But, while Halladay certainly had a storied career, was he good enough to be enshrined alongside baseball’s greatest players in the Hall of Fame?
According to the Jaffe WAR Score System (JAWS), Halladay falls just shy of the mark in important key metrics when compared to other starting pitchers in Cooperstown.
Halladay’s career rWAR of 64.3 falls 9.1 wins short of the 73.4 rWAR average of the 63 Hall of Famers at his position, but much of that can be attributed to his short career. A more telling metric is Halladay’s WAR7, which sums the WAR from his seven most successful seasons, designed to measure peak performance among players with shorter careers. Halladay posts a 50.6 WAR7, 0.6 wins above the 50.1 WAR7 average. JAWS, which averages a player’s career WAR and their WAR7, pegs Halladay at 57.5, again below the 61.8 JAWS average.
And, though Halladay’s 57.5 JAWS is below the average Hall of Fame starting pitcher, it still ranks above 32 of the 63 Hall of Fame starters, or 51 percent. This is perhaps a more telling metric, as the average JAWS of 61.8 is likely skewed to the right by some incredibly high numbers (from Walter Johnson and Cy Young himself, who both posted scores above 100) that no future pitcher is likely to ever reach. Halladay fans shouldn’t worry that he’s below the average in JAWS; what matters is that he’s right in the middle-of-the-pack of the scores of those actually in.
Obviously, JAWS isn’t the only metric to measure Hall of Fame-worthiness, though it tends to be the most popular.
One notable method of determining the likelihood of a player being enshrined is Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor, which looks beyond a player’s stats and considers other factors, such as awards won, All-Star Game appearances and postseason success, as these are often considered by the majority of voters. (Whether they should be is a different question.) Rather than determine a player’s worthiness specifically, it examines the likelihood that a specific player will ultimately make it. A 100 signifies a likely Hall of Famer and a 130 is a virtual cinch. Long story short, Halladay’s 127 gives him great odds of being inducted.
All of this aside, Halladay posted a 58.7 fWAR over a 10-year span from 2002 to 2011, nearly 10 wins above the second-highest fWAR of any pitcher during that timeframe. He was dominant, and he was dominant for a long time.
Halladay is a clear Hall of Famer, and I do expect him to eventually get in. I don’t think that could be any more obvious from what
The 10-player limit on the ballot, though, complicates his odds, at least this year. Voters could choose to keep Halladay off of their ballot in order to vote in favor of more “urgent” cases, such as Edgar Martinez or Larry Walker, who are running out of years of eligibility. There are many qualified players on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot (as per usual), and I could see Halladay being a player that is squeezed by some.
Will that be enough to keep him below 75 percent of the electorate? Who knows. Nonetheless, the late, great Roy Halladay was a Hall of Fame player. He should ultimately get into Cooperstown, even if it isn’t on the first ballot.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.