Monday, April 15, 2013

Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay won his 200th game yesterday as the Phillies defeated the Marlins 2-1, giving him a career record of 200-102. At age 36 and coming off a so-so 2012, it's reasonable to ask how much longer he has left to pitch and begin the discussion on his chances for induction into the Hall of Fame. He has NO CHANCE of getting anywhere near 300 wins, and his career trajectory suggests 220-240 wins when he finally retires. This chart lists pitchers of "recent" vintage (going back to roughly 1950) with 200-240 wins:

The Hall of Fame is rough on pitchers with these win totals, and quite frankly capricious. No one argues the excellence of Whitey Ford, since his .690 winning percent is the best in baseball history (minimum 400 games), but arguments begin with Jim Bunning and Don Drysdale. BIll James in his book "Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?" (formerly titled "The Politics of Glory") does an extensive comparison between Drysdale and Milt Pappas, strongly suggesting that Drysdale doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame.

Two names (John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez) should get into the Hall of Fame (and it will be interesting to see how that plays out)--the rest fall clearly into the Hall of Very Good Category when USING TRADITIONAL STANDARDS. This chart shows the career wins for current pitchers:

The times, they are a-changing. The Hall of Fame voters are simply going to have to acknowledge that 300 wins is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN AGAIN. As long ago as 1963, Early Wynn was convinced he would be the last pitcher to win 300 games--other than the 11 pitchers that came after him that did so, he was right, but I'm willing to state that absent any drastic changes in starting pitcher utilization, Randy Johnson WILL be the last pitcher to win 300 games. Mike Mussina will be up for election beginning with the 2014 vote, and I'm totally at a loss as to predict how the voters will handle his 270-153 record. I suspect it's going to take a couple of years for him to get in.

So what do we do with the folks like Halladay, Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown and others who are the vanguards of the new era of starting pitchers? It's going to take time for the BBWAA to wake up and figure out that change has occurred. As long ago as 2005 I was wondering if the 500 home run threshold was dated, and the Steroid Era kind of took care of that issue, but the game changes, and the metrics with which we measure success have to change as well. Roy Halladay had a level of dominance he was able to maintain over about an 8-year period (give or take), and look what's coming up BEHIND him--we're not far away from 200 wins being the new significant benchmark. Of the pitchers in the second chart, only CC Sabathia appears to be able to win even 250 games, and that would require 19+ win seasons over the next 4-5 years, not an easy thing to do in today's baseball.

Whenever Halladay hangs up his spikes, it should be a no-brainer to his Hall of Fame selection. I'm disappointed that him reaching the 200-win milestone was somewhat muted, given that it's not that easy to do anymore. Congratulations, Mr. Halladay--you're at the forefront of what will become an increasingly rare species.

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