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POLL: John Smoltz and the Hall of Fame

Posted by Andy on September 28, 2010

John Smoltz was a cornerstone of the dynastic Braves teams of the 1990s and 2000s. He was a top starting pitcher in the late 1990s, including winning the NL Cy Young in 1996, and then reinvented himself as a stud reliever in the 2000s after an arm injury cost him the 2000 season.

Smoltz had one season, 2003, that was arguably the greatest season by a closer. In 64.1 innings, he allowed just 48 hits and 8 walks while striking out 73 (0.870 WHIP). His ERA+ was 385 and he generated 3.2 WAR that year.

Having proven that he could dominate as both a starter and reliever, Smoltz has done things that few other pitchers have done. However, because he split time between the two roles, his counting stats (such as career wins or saves) don't measure up to typical Hall of Famers who spent their entire career in one role or the other. Will this ultimately hurt him?

Please click through to read more, vote, and comment in the debate.

For John Smoltz in the Hall of Fame:

  • He's 38th in career WAR for pitchers. Of the 37 guys ahead of him, 25 are already in the Hall of Fame and another 8 are likely to make it one day. Smoltz has a higher WAR than more than 20 pitchers already in the Hall of Fame, including Jim Palmer, Dennis Eckersley, and Whitey Ford. Regardless of your opinion of WAR as a stat, at least in this comparative sense it suggests that Smoltz has put together an exceptional career.
  • One Cy Young award (1996) and 4 other top-7 finishes, plus 8-time All-Star, a Silver Slugger, a Rolaids Relief award, and winner of the Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente, and Branch Rickey awards.
  • Smoltz was huge in the post-season. Over 25 playoff series, he went 15-4. Those 15 wins are good enough for 2nd-most all-time and are more than Tom Glavine (14) and Greg Maddux (11). He had a few bad games here and there, but overall he was great, with a 2.59 ERA in 11 NLDSs, 2.83 ERA in 9 NLCSs, and 2.47 ERA in 5 WSs.
  • Usually on these posts, I have lists of how great a guy has placed in individual stats. But as I mentioned above in Smoltz's case, he doesn't do well in career rankings for counting stats since he switched roles. He's only 88th in career wins and 66th in career saves. His best career ranking is probably strikeouts, in which he is 16th. Keep in mind that he's had a very unusual career. The only real comparable guy is Dennis Eckerlsey, but Eck spent a lot more time as a closer than Smoltz did and ended up 113th in career wins and 6th in career saves. Only 15 guys in history have 100 wins and 100 saves and as you can see, nobody did it quite like Smoltz.

Against Smoltz in the Hall of Fame:

  • For the first 6 full years of his career (1989-1994) Smoltz wasn't a particularly good pitcher. At the beginning of this period the Braves were awful but by the end of it they were in the World Series. Over this period Smoltz was 76-68 with a 112 ERA+--not bad, solidly above-average, but he was basically the #3 starter behind Maddux and Glavine. It wasn't until 1995 that Smoltz became the dominant pitcher he's remembered as. Perhaps this can all be summed up by the fact that despite pitching on such good teams for so many years, Smoltz won more than 17 games just 1 time.
  • In the one year the Braves won the World Series (1995) Smoltz got bombed in his only start against the Indians. In all those other years that the Braves made the playoffs, they never won it all. Obviously Smoltz is not single-handedly responsible for these failures, but it is what it is.

I find Smoltz a difficult case to argue in both directions due to this major career split he had. I need some help folks.

Does John Smoltz belong in the Hall of Fame?online surveys

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 at 7:30 am and is filed under Hall of Fame, Polls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

109 Responses to “POLL: John Smoltz and the Hall of Fame”

  1. No Curt Schilling poll? There's a guy, to ME, that has to get in that might not.

  2. I think Smoltz is a 1st ballot guy. When it comes time, I think people will probably talk about him & bring up Eck's name a lot. Smoltz was definitely dominant during his years.

  3. I would also vote 'YES' on Smoltz.

  4. First ballot...agreed, Devon. He was one of the defining pitchers of his time.

  5. @1
    There was a Schilling poll a while back.

    I know its a copout, but I'm a big "best player eligible" guy. I have no idea how much I'll want to vote for Smoltz until I see the other names on the ballot. There are a ton of great players becoming eligible in the next five years. There will be a significant backlog by the time that Smoltz becomes eligible. Its likely the he'll have to wait until guys ahead of him are inducted. Then we'll see.

  6. I think with Smoltz, voters will have to be smart enough to look past the counting stats.
    In his favor:
    Key member of 13 pennant winning teams (plus one appearance w/ the Cards). I give credit for being part of a winner. So this is important to me.
    213 wins. Not a bad total in and of itself. Then you add in his years as a dominant reliever.
    He does well (not great) on the black and gray ink tests. Although most of his black ink is in his Cy Young season.
    What hurts him is his low counting stats, which Andy covered in his preamble. His not being in the top 5 pitchers in the league most years, and not even being in the top two on his team, most years.
    For me, he passes the "Look" test. He looked like a Hall of Famer when he was out there.

  7. I vote yes on Smoltz. The fact that a guy has excelled in two different roles shouldn't be seen as a negative in my book. With 3000Ks and an HOF monitor of 167 this would seem to be a no brainer. His black ink, gray ink and HOF standards are all in line. Not a first ballot election, but definitely in someday, IMO.

  8. David in Toledo Says:

    My presumption line is 300 win shares for a starter, 200 win shares for a reliever. There's nothing magic about the numbers, and a presumption line is just that -- a starting point for further analysis.

    26 Hall starting pitchers since 1901 have totals below 300. 24 Hall starting pitchers who played after 1901 have totals below 300. A few examples: Gibson, 309; Palmer, 308; Lyons, 306; Hubbell, 303; Wynn, 302; Feller, 299.

    The Hall relievers are Sutter, 160; Fingers, 187; Gossage, 218; Wilhelm, 258; and Eckersley, 298. NOT in are Rivera, 240; Lee Smith, 192; Lindy McDaniel, 184; Hoffman, 182; Wagner, 175. As Andy noted above, Eckersley (and Gossage and Wilhelm) get some benefit in their number because they were starting pitchers for a time.

    Smoltz spent almost 16 years as a starter and about 3.5 as a reliever. A sensible presumption line for such a hybrid would seem to be about 280. Smoltz is credited with 289 win shares. I start, therefore, by assuming he has qualified himself for Cooperstown.

    What else is there to consider? He seems to have been a good teammate. Gehrig, Clemente, and Rickey awards speak in his favor. The postseason record certainly doesn't detract from a positive presumption.
    If he were a jerk who had many postseason chances and failed them all, then a career numbers presumption might not hold. But that is not the case.

    I vote "yes."

  9. "For the first 6 full years of his career (1989-1994) Smoltz wasn't a particular good pitcher. "

    I would argue that during that time he wasn't a GREAT pitcher, but he was certainly a good pitcher. With all due caveats about WAR being an imperfect stat, Smoltz amassed 18.6 WAR during 1989-1993 or 29% of his career WAR, including 3 of his 10 best WAR seasons. He pitched in three All-Star games, was top-5 in NL innings pitched three times and led the NL in strikeouts once. In terms of extra credit, Smoltz also happened to be excellent in the postseason during this time, putting up a 1.94 ERA over 69 2/3 innings (and a 5-1 record, for what that's worth). I don't think that being the #3 starter behind Maddux and Glavine can really be held against him. That's like saying Bill Dickey couldn't have been that good in 1936 because he was only the third best hitter on the Yankees that year behind Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.

    I'm a Yankees fan and I don't even particularly like Smoltz. But I have to respect the fact that he's either worthy of the Hall of Fame or certainly on the borderline. His chances of getting into the Hall are another matter -- mainstream writers will see that for whatever reasons (one of which being his time as a closer) he didn't rack up the Wins that they want to see in a dominant starter, even in the eight seasons when he was healthy enough to pitch 225+ innings.

  10. David in Toledo Says:

    Whoops, big mistake (can you fix it?)! Paragraph 2: "26 Hall starting pitchers since 1901 have totals GREATER THAN 300."

  11. Smoltzy deserves credit for being a legitimately excellent starter, sliding into the closer role when his team needed him, being the best closer in baseball for three years (yes, better than Mo), and then returning to the rotation and pitching very well there, too.

    His case is very similar to Eck's for me. Honestly, I think Smoltzy may even have the edge. While Eck had a long run as a great closer, Smoltzy was brilliant during his three-year run and also had a (much) better career as a starter.

  12. David in Toledo Says:

    Oh, horsefeathers! Maybe it's 24 Hall of Fame starting pitchers with more than 300 career win shares and 26 with fewer than that. . . . In any case, the point is that about half the choices can be justified by a career presumption line of 300, and the other half got in some other way -- career shortened by war (Lemon), death (Joss), injury (Koufax, Dean); outstanding citizen and came close in the win-shares number; friend of Frankie Frisch, whatever.

    And 3 of the 5 relievers in the Hall are over a 200 presumption line.

    Since Smoltz is approximately 80% starter and 20% reliever, 280 win shares is the kind of accomplishment that would put him IN THE TOP HALF of pitchers already in the Hall. He has 289. It would take a persuasive argument outlining all Smoltz's flaws to get me to vote "no." I don't see even the beginnings of that argument.

    Oh, and as a reminder, Blyleven 342 career win shares.

  13. Andy,

    It seems like you are for Smoltz to be in the Hall but can't find any GREAT support from the statistics. I think he is a good case for using both types of analysis when determining election possibility (stats and "feel").

    As you have shown there aren't any stats that blow you away, but he just feels like a HOF (hence the almost 91% of 'Yes' votes as of right now).

  14. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    In my opinion, Smoltz was a no-brainer choice. Ford's numbers come out a little better as a starter; but my grandmother could have been a winner with the Yankees in those days. His stat comparisons come out ahead of men like Eckersley and Haines {a personal favoritel and he was THE stud for a team that dominated for over a decade. He, Maddox and Glavine all make it in my book {Not to mention Bobby Cox!}!

  15. The guy had 20 straight years of positive WAR, plus an excellent total, nearly 15 consecutive seasons of 130 ERA+ (He chucked one year of 128 in there, and, granted, some of that was in the bullpen), not to mention he was a top-shelf pitcher at his peak. In a sense, he's the love child of Don Sutton and Dennis Eckersley. I apologize for the imagery.

  16. Having over 3,000 strikeouts looks very nice on the resume. I think it's amazing that Smoltz was a starter, closer for a few years and then pitched excellent as a starter again. I don't think he'll get in on the first ballot though. Maybe the second time around. Even Don Sutton wasn't a first ballot guy.

  17. John Smoltz: 213-155, 3473 IP, 3.33 ERA, 125 ERA+, 65.3 WAR
    Curt Schilling: 216-146, 3261 IP, 3.46 REA, 128 ERA+, 67.7 WAR
    Kevin Brown: 211-144, 3256.1 IP, 3.28 ERA, 127 ERA+, 64.0 WAR

    I've always found it striking just how similar these three pitchers' numbers are on the surface, and yet how different the perceptions of the three pitchers tends to be. I wouldn't be surprised to see both Schilling and Smoltz get in quickly, nor would I be surprised to see Brown get knocked off on the first ballot.

    I think it IS fair for Smoltz and Schilling to be ranked ahead of Brown. In the case of Smoltz, he does deserve some credit for the higher leverage of his innings in his excellent years as a closer, and it's also fair to consider the postseason bodies of work for all three. On the other hand, I'd rate Brown as having the most outstanding peak of the three, with his 1996-2000 at a level that neither of the other two can match.

    From a statistical standpoint, there shouldn't be much of a gap between the voting, but it's clear that there is (80-ish% against for Brown, 90-ish% for, so far, for Smoltz, 65-ish% for for Schilling.) How much of that difference is based on the real, tangible differences (postseason performance, years as a relief pitcher, etc.) and how much is based more on perception (Smoltz being a part of Atlanta's legendary trio, Schilling being a part of Boston's curse-breaking, Brown being seen as a jerk and recognized as much for his big contract as for his pitching)?

  18. I think that just your post, Andy, says it all. It's obvious that it was very difficult for you (or any of us) to scrape up a decent "against" argument.

  19. Boy, I just checked out the 100 Win/100 Save list of 15 guys. Not exactly littered with HOF guys. In a distorted way it almost hurts Smoltz's chances (Bob Stanley? Tom Gordon?). :)

    But I do love any list that includes Dave Guisti.

  20. Tmckelv makes a good point that Smoltz feels like a Hall of Famer.
    HOF voters often consider, or used to consider, was this player in the conversation as the best player at his position at any point in his career?
    That's why there was support for Don Drysdale and no one would have voted for Milt Pappas, even though they pitched in the same era and their career W-L records and ERA are nearly identical. (Drysdale is clearly superior in WAR.)
    You can think this is wrong, and that it should come down to numbers. In reality, I think numbers often are used to justify the feel.
    Smoltz was in the conversation as a top starter and a top reliever.

  21. The best argument I can come up with against Smoltz is this...if he had played for average teams instead of great teams, would his numbers be quite as good, and would his reputation be as good? I don't think either would be as good.

  22. Johnny Twisto Says:

    the best closer in baseball for three years (yes, better than Mo)

    But not better than Gagne.

    if he had played for average teams instead of great teams, would his numbers be quite as good, and would his reputation be as good? I don't think either would be as good.

    Wouldn't that be true of pretty much anyone?

  23. Yes, and that's why players from lesser teams don't make the HOF as often.

  24. I'm puzzled that there is even a debate. What characteristics of a HOF pitcher does Smoltz lack?

    My first test of HOF credentials is: Who has comparable stats but is NOT in the Hall?
    In the case of Smoltz, the answer is: Nobody.
    Smoltz compiled 3,473 innings and a 125 ERA+.
    Every eligible pitcher with at least 3,000 IP and an ERA+ of at least 121 has been inducted.

    As a backup test, I look for who has worse numbers but IS in the Hall.
    There are 13 HOF pitchers with no more than 3,600 IP and an ERA+ of 125 or less -- roughly 1/4 of the HOF roster of starting pitchers don't measure up to Smoltz's combination of IP and ERA+ (* indicates at least 5 points worse in ERA+, # stands for at least 200 fewer IP, and @ means both):
    -- *Rube Marquard, *Catfish Hunter, *Herb Pennock, @Jesse Haines, @Jack Chesbro, @Chief Bender, @Bob Lemon, #Joe McGinnity, Don Drysdale, Clark Griffith, Juan Marichal, #Dazzy Vance, and #Lefty Gomez.

    So, on a volume basis, it is overwhelmingly clear that Smoltz meets the implicit HOF criteria.
    Then, factor in:
    -- his outstanding postseason record -- 209 IP and 2.67 ERA, including a 2.47 ERA in 8 World Series starts;
    -- his 3 years as a top-flight closer (which suppressed his career innings total but added more high-leverage innings);
    -- 1 Cy Young Award and 1.19 career Cy Young shares (40th all-time);
    -- 8 All-Star selections;
    -- key member of one of the most dominant teams of his era;
    -- and for the WARriors, his 63.9 career WAR ranks 38th all-time, right between HOFers Marichal and Palmer.

    What's left?

  25. ONE THING THAT SHOULD BE MENTIONED...JOHN SMOLTZ IS AND ALWAYS WAS A CLASS ACT IN AN ERA OF BASEBALL THAT HAS BEEN SHAMED BY MASSIVE CHEATING. HE WAS A WORKER WHO ALWAYS ANSWERED THE BELL AND DID WHAT HIS MANAGER ASKED FOR THE GOOD OF THE TEAM. THE COMPARISON TO ECKERSLY IS APT; THEY ARE CUT OUT OF THE SAME CLOTH. DEFINITE HALL OF FAME MATERIAL.

  26. Regarding the credit people give him as a relief pitcher: how much is based on what he did, and how much is based on projection? He was a closer for three years, and was sometimes brilliant in the role, but it was ultimately only one of the three seasons that stands out as truly special; the other two were good seasons, but really no better than a handful of relief seasons by an assortment of lower profile closers every year. He showed that he had the ability to be a great closer, but he's not like an Eckersley with a sustained run as a dominant relief ace. He's more of a great starter with a great year in relief plus a couple more good ones, rather than a great starter plus a great reliever. (In contrast, Eckersley was more of a good starter with a few great years, as well as a great reliever)

  27. Johnny Twisto Says:

    In Smoltz's general era, there were four greats who rank among the best pitchers ever: Clemens, Martinez, Johnson, and Maddux.

    There's a second tier that includes Smoltz, Schilling, Brown (as listed above), and Mussina. These guys are all probably deserving, but one could certainly draw up arguments against them, and Brown in particular is quite unlikely to come close to induction.

    (Glavine resides on his own intermediate tier in between -- clearly a HOFer, but not in the conversation for best ever.)

    So at best, Smoltz was the 6th best pitcher of his general era, is there any disagreement about that? For whatever reasons, Brown isn't going to receive serious consideration any time soon. I think the relevant comparisons are with Schilling and Mussina. Is Smoltz more deserving than them? Are they all deserving?

  28. I am fairly stunned by the one-sidedness of the poll results. I believe there's a certain amount of Jack Morris effect here, where Smoltz is getting a lot of credit, perhaps more than he deserves, for a selection of his post-season accomplishments.

  29. I don't disagree with JT (@27) at all. I think that's a pretty good list, and I think most people WOULD rank Smoltz as #6 out of all of those guys (I think Andy Pettite also merits being in this discussion, by the way). To me, that's right around the cutoff, but it's certainly a tough call. It's tough to imagine nine, ten, or eleven guys from this era getting in (and that's not counting the relief aces-- Mariano, and maybe Hoffman). Maybe it's more borderline than people think, but my guess is that the Hall voters will likely agree with the 85% (as of now) who say that he's in.

    By the way, Andy, is there a way we could see cumulatively how the Hall of Fame polls are going so far? I'd be interested to see side-by-side comparisons of what kind of percentages these guys are getting. Thanks!

  30. Johnny Twisto Says:

    WilsonC, that's a good point about Smoltz's relief work. I will point out that his ERA may have been blown up a bit by a few particularly bad appearances. He gave up 8 runs to the Mets early in '02; very few closers are allowed to remain in to give up that many runs. From 4/7/02 through 9/10/04, he pitched 215 IP with a 1.88 ERA. That's three excellent seasons worth of closing right there. The games I snipped off either end of that run make his overall numbers look worse, but often there's not that much difference in terms of win probability between giving up a couple runs at the end of the game and giving up five. Maybe other closers would benefit from such selective sampling as well, but it did "feel" like Smoltz was a better closer than his '02 and '04 ERAs would suggest.

  31. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Andy, Smoltz might have the best postseason resume of any pitcher, when considering both the volume and quality of work. He wasn't as dominant as, say, Bob Gibson or Christy Mathewson, but has more than twice as many IP as either. He certainly deserves credit for that performance, far more than Morris does. I can't say if voters are over-valuing it. I've never been sure exactly how to weight postseason performance against regular season performance. There are different ideas about that which all seem valid.

    And of course, the funny thing about HOF voting is its binary nature. If almost everyone agrees he is a HOFer, albeit just over the line, he will get almost everyone's vote. There is no way with a HOF vote to separate him from Greg Maddux, if you think both are worthy.

    David, I thought about Pettitte. He is probably moving himself up towards that second tier as he continues to pitch well. He certainly doesn't have the peak of those other guys however.

  32. David in Toledo Says:

    Two last comments. Regarding credit given Smoltz as a relief pitcher (#26), that's part of the win shares total of 289 (measured against the 280 someone who was only 20% a reliever "should" earn). If (the preferred version of) WAR is valid, it ought to provide the same understanding. Nobody would expect Mariano Rivera to compile the same career WAR as Roger Clemens.

    With respect to the 100 win/100 save list (comment #19), the list is ordered by alphabet (reversed). A save is about 2.3 times easier to earn than a win (going by recent yearly highs of 20 wins, 46 saves, thereabouts). Multiply each of the 15 pitchers' wins by 2.3 and add the saves and you get THIS order: Eckersley 843, Smoltz 644, Fingers 603, Gossage 595, Wilhelm 556. The Hall of Fame cream rises to the top (even though "wins" and, for that matter, "saves" are a function of opportunity and not the best metrics for pitching achievement). 6th place goes to Lindy McDaniel, 496.

  33. These Poll numbers don't surprise me at all. Being able to dominate in two different roles helps a lot --as does his postseason numbers. Not many pitchers have dominated at both roles. These issues add significant and legitimate contextual weight to his resume that the WAR just misses.

    Starting pitchers that should get in from this era are:

    Martinez
    Maddux
    Johnson
    Clemens
    Glavine
    Smoltz
    Schilling
    Mussina

    The line will come down to Pettitte and Brown with Pettitte likely getting much more play even though most in this forum would disagree with him being more deserving. I guess Moyer could nose into this discussion if he gets to 300 wins.

    As for relievers, i'd say just Mo and Hoffman with Wagner having a very outside chance.

  34. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Following up on my #30, from 2002 to 2004,

    Smoltz had 6 games in which he gave up 3 or more runs, a total of 26 runs, but the Braves won 3 of the 6 games.
    Gagne had 4 such games, allowing a total of 15 runs, and all the games were lost.
    Rivera had 4 games, allowing 16 runs, and all the games were lost.
    Wagner had 4 games, allowing 14 runs, and his team won 1 of them.

    So Smoltz did seem to get blown up more than the other elite closers of the time, yet the Braves salvaged a few of those games.

    He had the 2nd most WPA among closers in that period, well behind Gagne but well ahead of Rivera.

    He had the most save opportunities of over an inning, 34, and was brilliant in those chances, allowing just 2 ER in 52.1 IP.

  35. #27

    I think that's a really good breakdown. There's really three ways to look at it:
    - There's the small-Hall approach, of setting the cutoff directly below Glavine and excluding all the Tier-2 guys
    - There's the big-Hall approach of electing guys who have typically been elected and setting the drop-off below the point where the drop-off becomes pronounced (in this case, after Brown or Pettitte, depending on how you rate the latter)
    - There's an middle-ground, where the tier-two guys fall into the "borderline" category, and need something beyond their raw statistical record to drive their cases, such as postseason success. This seems to be where the majority are voting, which pushes Brown below the threshold and raises the others potentially above it.

    What I find interesting is how much stronger the support for Smoltz is compared to Schilling, where both have that "something extra" to help propel an otherwise similar statistical case.

  36. When I look at Smoltz and Schilling I see basically a similar WAR, same number of wins, and equally good postseason resumes. The difference b/w the two is the saves. What's interesting is Mussina has clearly a better WAR at 74 (Schilling 69, Smoltz 64), more wins, but nothing that distinguishes himself in the playoffs despite a nice playoff resume --I think most would rank Mussina just behind these two? Their Hall of Fame monitor numbers are 171(Schill), 167 (Smoltz), and 121 (Mussina). Pettitte's HoFM # is 122 and Brown's is 93 whereas Brown's WAR is 64 and Pettitte's is 50.

    Another pitcher that I would group just behind Schill, Smoltz and Mussina would be David Cone, but Coney didn't hit at least 200 wins which is too big a hole in his resume. However, his numbers of 58 WAR, 194 wins, 121 ERA+ and 3.46 ERA are comparable. He pitched only 2900 IP and really needed about 300 more innings and about 20-25 more wins. His HoFM is only 103 as well.

  37. For me, if I had a vote, I would NOT consider a player's postseason performance, good or bad.

    The postseason is the ultimate reward for a great season, the HOF is the ultimate reward for a great REGULAR SEASON career.

    When considering players for the Hall, we should do so with an even playing field. Should Ernie Banks' postseason career be considered equally to Smoltz'?

    Obviously, the answer to that question is no.

    I am willing to give Smoltz the benefit of the doubt as far as the bullpen part of his career goes, however. He clearly lost a decent amount of innings, starts, strikeouts, wins, etc., enough so where his numbers go from questionable to no doubt about it.

    I agree with a previous poster, there are some impressive ballots forthcoming over the next few years, and Smoltz is second tier to most of those players, but he eventually gets in, probably between years five and ten.

    On the other hand, Morris and Brown have no chance, Schilling a small chance, and Mussina may eventually get in, following the Blyleven path, on the final ballot.

  38. Better than Eckersley in every way. Yes. He'll go in.

  39. @37
    It's true that postseason opportunities are not fairly distributed, so they should not be a primary factor in a HOF assessment. But why can't they be a secondary factor, especially for borderline players?

    For example, when comparing John Smoltz and Kevin Brown, whose regular-season stats are similar, why should we completely ignore the fact that Smoltz was one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever, while Brown, with a significant body of postseason work (13 starts), was ordinary overall (4.19 ERA) and pretty ineffective in the World Series (0-3, 6.04 in 4 starts)?

    If everything else about Smoltz and Brown were indistinguishable, I would not hesitate to rate Smoltz ahead of Brown on the basis of their postseason records.

    P.S. The official BBWAA rules for Hall of Fame elections states, "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." No distinction is made between regular season and postseason.

  40. His 3.25 ERA the year he had the 55 saves is NOT good and definitely not one of the best - especially with saves being the most overrated stat in baseball. I remember that year, he got came in one game with two men on, gave up two runs, BARELY got out of the game and they were raving about him getting his 40th save.

    He had two great seasons as a reliever, not 3.5 and Eck had 5 stellar seasons as a stopper so I hope folks will STOP comparing him to Eck.

    I am in the minority. I think he was a Hall of Good player but falls short of the Hall of Fame.

  41. Another thing, if you just look at him as a starter, I think he averages 12 wins a season. If you take out his CY young season, it's worse. I believe even Don Sutton averaged more wins a season than that. The positive he has going is his post seasons. Again, I'm in the minority - all i see are people raving about him but statistically he's not a HOFer.

  42. John @ #39.

    So, are you saying Greg Maddux will lose votes because of his postseason record?

    I'm not disagreeing with you, by the way, just stating a personal preference. If we (sorry, I) start looking at things outside the regular season, then that, to me, lessens a players qualifications.

    Its about what they did over 162 games that helped their team get to the postseason, not what they did, or didn't do, when they got there.

  43. @28
    Andy, could you clarify what you meant by "a selection of his post-season accomplishments"?

    I don't think we even need to look at selected games to say that his overall body of postseaon work -- 209 innings, 2.67 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 -- should boost his HOF candidacy.

  44. I'm pretty surprised at how many of the votes seem to be auto-first-ballot for Smoltz. Yes the WAR factor puts him in some pretty incredible company, but is that all it's about now?

    He was a great closer for three seasons. THREE seasons. So while this would inhibit his counting stats, we're not talking about a guy whose win total jumps over 300. Let's call him 15 and 10 for those 4 seasons (a VERY complimentary assumption) - that takes Smoltz to 270 and 200, roughly, hardly a HOF W/L.

    I don't care about wins and losses so much, but there's a lot of the "the closer years hurt his counting stats as a starter" commentary here, and I'm not sure it would jam him into the HOF if he'd never closed.

    The closer years HELP his hall chances, obviously, since it was the only thing he was ever "the best" at, but we're all granting him extra credit on the closer years as if it really hindered a HOF starter career. I would not concur.

    And briefly about closers, in the last 20 years, we've seen COUNTLESS closers dominate for a few seasons. Rod Beck, Gagne, Randy Myers, etc., who WERE great for a few years, and that's why Mo and Hoffman ARE hall of fame. And it's why Rod Beck, et al, are not. You need more than three great years on a good team to make the HOF. Just ask Dave Stewart.

    So I think he's HOF, but not a shoe-in. Kind of in keeping with his black ink/gray ink, and in line with his all-star selections. He went to the AS game, but not as often as you'd expect for a 1st ballot HOFer. This tells me a lot. And only five seasons in the Cy Young voting - this tells me a lot, too.

    HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE, I know. Just my impressions as a watcher of the game: I WATCHED all of Smoltz's career, and he always seemed good-but-not-great to me. A good pitcher on an incredible staff, which always seemed to garner him some disproportionately high praise.

    He's probably HOF first ballot, overwhelmingly, but he's more of a above-the-borderline, second-most-votes-in-his-class kind of guy.

  45. Johnny Twisto Says:

    An interesting thing is that Smoltz won the 1996 CYA that perhaps should have gone to Kevin Brown (who finished a distant 2nd). If Brown had a CYA and Smoltz did not, how much would that change our perceptions of each?

    I actually don't think the perceptions would be changed that much, but I'm not sure why.

    Incidentally, comparing CYA shares can be an interesting way to see how these pitchers were judged for their best seasons.
    Smoltz had 1.19 shares, winning once.
    Brown had 1.20 shares, finishing 2nd once.
    Schilling had 1.85 shares, finishing 2nd three times
    Mussina had 0.92 shares, finishing 2nd once.
    Pettitte has 0.89 shares, finishing 2nd once.

    Mussina actually got votes in more seasons than any of the others, but it looks like he was usually just getting 1 or 2 third-place votes (the ballot had only 3 spots until this season).

  46. Im a big hall advocate and i ve advanced the argument that great players from great teams should get extra consideration.

    We can dissect the statistics as much as we want and i think enough people have made statistical and post season brilliance cases for Smoltz. I like John Smoltz for the HOF for the statisitcal and post season arguments but also....

    His Cy young year was exceptional, he went 24 and 8, in 35 starts...since the advent of the 5 starter era and pitcheres not getting more thn 35 starts, (as opposed to routinely 36 and more during the 4 starters era....) how many pitchers have won 24 or more games in a season?

    I think its a pretty short list.....Clemens (24-4), Gooden 24-4), Johnson 24-5, Welch (27-6)....and Smoltz. and please I m not sugggestign that Smoltz is the equal of Celems or Johnson amd I m not dicounting Pedro who went 23 and 4 (Pedro is one of the great great pitchers of the era and a first ballot no brainer) but I m pointing out that 24 is not a common number. Clemens and Johnson are no brainer HOFers, Gooden should have been and Welch was a very, very good pitcher with one exceptional year.

    And Smoltz did go 17 and 3 in 26 starts and finished 5th in the CYA voting! 17 and 3!!!!!

    But, I like Smoltz because he was willing to go back and forth between starting and relieivng to help the Braves and they were a dominant team during his years with them.. Really, how many pitchers do both in the way that Smoltz....did... Eckersley............ who is in the HOF. Jim Kaat, who I think SHOULD be in the HOF!!!!!!

    Regarding Mike Mussina, I cant even imagine an argument.....the guy went 270 and 153!!!!!! Certainly, 300 wins is a passport for the HOF, but 100 wins more then losses should be another no brainer (in my mind).
    100 wins more then losses suggests efficiency and dominance or both!

    Someone suggested that there were four pitching greats of the era.....Clemens, Johnson, Maddux and Martinez...I agree.....but might I suggest that Halliday isn t close to finished, we dont know how much Pettite has left, and what do we do with Moyer? Moyer isnt a dominant power pitcher but certainly a very durable pitcher who has won a lot of games.... let say he doesnt win 300 but has 15 more wins in him and he gets close to 280 or so. do we lump him in with Tommy John and Jim Kaat? Good effort for 20 plus years but just not enoguh?

    Someon suggested that Bob lemon who was 207 and 128 got in the HOF because his career was postponed by the war and he did n t win his first game until he was 25. Hmmmmmm, could be, But maybe also because Bob lemon won 20 or more SEVEN TIMES in just thirteen years and how many picheres have equalled or won more then 20 SEVEN TIMES in the live ball era? Spahn (13), Grove (8) Palmer (8), (Jenkins (7) and that is the list! And those guys had longer carrers then Lemon and they are all in the HOF!

    Clemens won 20 or more 6 tinms, as did Feller, Carlton and Marichal....Seaver did it five times, as did Early Wynn ....Seems to me that a guy who wins 20 or more seven times and plays ten or more years has a pretty good case for the HOF.

    Starting pitching is about winning games at a high to superior percentage....period. A pitcher can dominate with Ks, he can can do it with finesse....and you can dissect the stats all you wanrt.....ut as someone once said...just win, baby!

  47. I consider myself a tough grader, and I have no problem with him being elected. He is not a slam dunk, but he deserves election much more than someone like Trevor Hoffman.

  48. @42
    Chuck --

    (a) No, I'm pretty sure that Maddux won't lose any votes, barring a scandalous revelation.

    (b) I gently dispute your implicit premise that Maddux didn't pitch well in the postseason. He had a 3.27 ERA in 198 IP, including a 2.09 ERA in 5 WS starts.

    (c) I reiterate that I consider postseason work a secondary HOF credential. To elaborate, I would only consider postseason performance when the regular-season marks do not clearly resolve the HOF question. For someone like Maddux, whose regular-season stats make him so overwhelmingly qualified that you'd really have to question the sanity or integrity of anyone who votes against, it wouldn't matter even if he had been awful in the postseason. On the flip side, for someone like Monte Pearson, whose regular-season marks clearly exclude him from the HOF, not even a dazzling postseason record (4-0 in 4 WS starts from 1936-39, 1.01 ERA, 0.73 WHIP) can put him over the top.

    (d) Given that (1) the ultimate goal of a team is not merely to reach the postseason but to win the World Series, (2) MLB maintains official records of individual postseason performance, (3) MVPs are named for most postseason series, and (4) postseason performance is certainly part of the general discussion of any notable player (just ask A-Rod!), I don't see how we can completely ignore postseason performance for HOF purposes.

  49. I do accept that Smoltz wasn t Eckersley,,,no one was.....actually if I could compare Eckerlsey to anyone int he HOF, it would be Rickey Henderson...becuse if you look at their careers both did more then enough for two great careers ech, henderson was greatest leadoff hitter of the modern era, with power and of course speed...........the most prolific run socer and base stealer in MLB history ....Eckersley was a very very good at timesa great starting pitcher and then a dominant lights out closer.

  50. @43 John,

    I was referring mainly to the fact that Jack Morris' HOF candidacy is supported by many due primarily to his 1991 World Series pitching performance in Game 7, without regard to how he pitched in other post-season games.

    Smoltz' post-season record is much better than Morris', and much better than his own regular-season record, and I don't disagree that he was a fantastic post-season pitcher. That does include a few stinker games, notably the 1995 World Series game he pitched poorly in. I just think folks tend to focus on Smoltz's post-season wins and not his entire post-season career, which on the whole is excellent but includes some poor games.

  51. 48
    Your point that Maddux is so ovewhelmingly qualified because of his regular season stats is valid. In my mind, madduix is a 100%....

    And yes, some writers should be questioned for their samity and integrity. No one has even received 100% on a first ballot, but my theory and its only a theory that players with a good guy reputation get a higher percentage of votes on a first ballot.

    Can you imagine not voting for Willie Mays or Henry AAron on a first ballot.....but some writers didn t....

  52. @45 JT, I agree that if Brown had a CYA and Smoltz didn't, it would not change perception. Perhaps simply that when they were active John Smoltz "felt" like a HOFer and Brown did not. I'm not saying that is right, but I think the vote here reflects that.

    I usually vote "no" on these polls. partly because I tend toward a small hall, partly because I do believe that the most recent measurements, WAR in particular) haven't stood the test of time and there will always be time to add additional players once the metrics have been battle tested for a while. We can always vote Larry Walker intot he HOF, but once elected we can never kcik him off the island. That said, I vote "yes" for Smoltz.

    As for his not being in the top tier of pitchers in his era, the group being discussed here made their MLB debuts between '84 (Clemens) and '92 (Pedro) (I count 9 - Clemens, Maddux, Brown, Glavine, Smoltz, Schilling, Johnson, Mussina, Martinez - I've left Pettitie out of it because he is still active and didn't debut until 1995) . HOF pitchers who made their debut between 1959-67:
    Bob Gibson
    Juan Marichal
    Gaylord Perry
    Phil Niekro
    Don Sutton
    Steve Carlton
    Nolan Ryan
    Catfish Hunter
    Jim Palmer
    Ferguson Jenkins
    Tom Seaver

    That is 11 HOF pitchers who were in the preceeding generation, in fact 6 of them were active when Clemens broke in. While there are certainly a couple of questionable selections there, it shows that the number were are discussing from the 1984-2009 class is not unprecedented.

  53. @32,

    My comment about the 100 Win/100 Save list was about the overall list in general, not the order. Obviously there are some great pitcher on the list, but there are many names on there that one would not use as comparisons to pump up their HOF resume. That was my point.

    Plus I am not real sold on Closer Wins as a legitimate stat (many follow a blown save), so I wouldn't really compare it as the same as a Win by a starter, as you do in your calculations.

  54. And Bly will likely be added to that list as well #52.

  55. I don't give a lot of weight to Smoltz's numbers as a closer. He had great stuff -- no real surprise he
    dominated for an inning.

    Pitcherd with similar careers -- Catfish Hunter, Don Drysdale -- are in. Neither of them pitched in the 1990's and 2000's.

    Can't see how he won't make it, particularly because 150+ saves sets him that much apart from Hunter and
    Drysdale.

  56. As for the count post season not count post season performance when evaluating debate --I think this is perhaps the sabermetricians most glaring hole to not count post season numbers. I have recommended, like others have, a pWAR. To act like post season numbers don't exist is simply preposterous! Should it be primary, of course not, but to not count them is nothing short of ridiculous -- talking about wanting to create a vacuum. The biggest stage, the most chips on the table, pishposh, it's not fair to count them, discount them. Arrgh. Should they hurt a players chances if they have little playoff experience, not really, but they should definitely help if they were good!

    As for Morris having no chance (I'm not saying he should be in), he's got a shot that's better than "no chance" # 37! He's getting 54% of the vote and still has 4-5 years left. Also, i have no idea how one can really vote for Mussina over Schilling --to me, all three, Mussina, Schilling and Smoltz had very comparable Hall of Fame careers. If one goes in, the other two go in. If anything, I'd rank these three as Smoltz, Schilling, Mussina.

  57. 67
    i would rate the three as, Mussina, Schilling and Smoltz. I think you can make very good cases for both Smoltz and Schilling, but in my mind Mussina is an obvious choicefor the HOF a nd if I could only pick one it would be Mussina.... How many starting pictchers go 270 and 153 or better over 18 years with a .638 winning pct. He won 11 or more 17 years in a row.... and when he had great years....he was like Whitey Ford anothe pitcher that everyone seems to discount. !!!!!

    Let me makwe another comparison....
    Mussina went 270 and 153 in an 18 year career
    In his frist 18 years, Greg Maddux went 289 and 163.

    Pichers are sometmes accorded the title of great because of their longevity and durability and those are valid measures..and Maddux was a great great pitcher but he also pitched another full 6 more years then Mussina.

    People said that Mussina couldn t win 20, he went 30 and 9 in his last eyar and then reired.
    Classy, very classy.

    Mussina wasn t quite Maddux and certianly not Johhnson or Clemens or Martinez, but he was a great control pitcher for a long time and in my mind a definite fist ballot HOfer. Whether it happens is another stroy.

    Schilling had an up and down career, started very slowly had a couple of good to very good years was brilliant and doming from 27 on with years affected by injuries.

  58. sorry, Mussinqa went 20 and 9 in his last eyar and then retired.

  59. Yes Smoltz is a definite Hall of Famer in my book

  60. smoltz should be in the hall before glavine, imo. when you look at SABR stuff he easily outpaces glavine, he is up by schilling and mussina, and glavine is very much on the borderline for the hall by that standard. glavine will probably get in within several years on the ballot with his 300 wins. ergo, smoltz is in by my informal litmus and i predict he will get in too.

    i was surprised at how "obvious HOF" the SABR numbers for schilling, mussina, and smoltz were when i looked at them. like blyleven, i had seen them as borderline before, but my mind was changed after looking at the raw numbers.

  61. Smoltz is the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves. (Yes, I know, Eck is just short with 197 wins...). But it's not just that Smoltz went from being a top tier starter to top tier closer--it's that he made the successful transition BACK to top tier starter. He was 47-26 with a 3.20 ERA during his second tour of duty in the rotation from 2005-2008 with the Braves, including 2 All-Star appearances and two top 10 finishes in Cy Young voting.

    Also, lest we forget, Smoltz was not only part of the Braves' incredible 15 year run, but also pitched on some pretty bad ATL teams on either end of it. From 1988-1990 and 2006-2008, the Braves went 417-551. During that same stretch, Smoltz went 61-48 with a 3.48 ERA. Therefore, I wouldn't necessarily dismiss Smoltz's totals as being entirely the byproduct of being on a winner. He succeeded even when the Braves were down.

    I do agree that in the early 90s Smoltz was a bit overrated. He came on to the national scene during that incredible worst-to-first season in '91, and battled Jack Morris in game 7 of one of the greatest World Series ever. Yet he didn't have a truly breakout, dominant season until '96, five years later...

    However, in the final equation, nobody else in baseball history has successfully transitioned from a successful starter, to successful reliever, back to successful starter. Smoltz has my vote.

  62. If Eck deserves to be in the HoF, then Smoltz definitely deserves it. Smoltz was every bit the stopper Eck was (not for as long obviously), but as a starter he was significantly better.

  63. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I was surprised at how well Smoltz moved back to the rotation. I remember thinking he would pitch well, but wouldn't reach 200 IP. He cleared 200 by plenty, and then did it again, and again.

  64. 33
    Its a good list... i dont think Schilling, Smoltz or Mussina will be first ballot inductees, but I think Mussina should be.....just my opinion.

    52
    Idon t see anyone questonable HOfers on that list, and yes Blyleven should be in the HOF and also from that wera, I would vote for Luis Tiant...

  65. The day he became a dominant closer was the day he became a hall of famer.

  66. DoubleDiamond Says:

    Smoltz was the face of the Atlanta division champs for longer than anyone else. Well, everyone but Bobby Cox. Definitely a Hall of Famer, and here's hoping he doesn't have to wait as long as that "Sweet Caroline" singer has had to wait for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (The ballot for voting on the next induction was released today, and Neil Diamond is finally on it, 19 years after he was first eligible to be included. Whether he gets in or not is still up to some fickle voters.)

  67. joseph taverney Says:

    Only one post on this debate addresses that Smoltz was a stand-up guy. He involved himself in a ton of charities, conducted himself with sportsmanship on the field, gave good interviews... etc.
    Now I understand that means very little to the Hall in and of itself, but it is something that is consistently overlooked on these polls, but I'm sure it has a huge impact on writers opinions. And why not?! He represented a sport we all love in a great way. To me, if there is this much debate amongst knowledgeable baseball people, it seems a no brainer to fall back on character as a 'tie-breaker.'
    I also think it is special to see a guy stick it out in one uniform (almost) his whole career. In an era when 1-250 players stay with a team their whole careers, I think it is important, to the game and to fans, that there is still some loyalty, albeit Smoltz's last season was a mistake. But on the whole, I think he skipped a few extra million staying a Brave.
    Now, his stats.
    Led the league in wins, then saves, then wins again... That will never be done again.
    One of only two guys to lead the league in both. Derek Lowe is the other. But to come back and do it again is pretty special.
    And is one of three to have a 20 win season and a forty save season.
    And one of two to have 20Ws/50Ss. Eck is the other.
    The only thing I can count against him, is the first year he led the league in Ks. It was the same year David Cone was traded to the contending Blue Jays from the Mets. Smoltz was only a 3 Ks behind Cone, whose National League total was frozen at 214, entering the last week of the season. He started, even though the Braves had clinched and had only 3 games left. He went 4 innings and struck out 3, then left the game to become the National League SO leader. I felt Cone had earned it and Smoltz would of been more valuable to his team if he rested instead of went for the lead.
    just my opinion.
    I say yes to the Hall.

  68. For sure yes, but first ballot would surprise me. There's a real logjam come 2014-2015, plus whatever other near-misses are still lingering from previous years.

  69. Smoltz clearly is good enough, just with the regular season. Look at ERA +: unless you can claim he got much greater defensive help than normal, clearly he was good enough for long enough-without his unique pitching transitions. About the post season: he pitched the equivalent of a full year by any modern measure! Even absent extra credit for the leverage of the games, we must add an excellent year to his resume. The observation that he had a few bad games: What pitcher EVER has a full season with no bad games?

    And can we stop using stats like wins & win % as barometers of excellence? Sure good pitchers tend to win more-but they are highly inexact. How good your team is, re: run support & defense makes a big difference. It is wrong to downgrade Mussina for not having hit 20 until the end, just like it is el stupido to tout his wins/% as an ACCURATE measure of how he contributed. He was quite good enough for the HOF looking at ERA + over IP, & the component stats he contributed-WHIP, K/BB, HRs, the more advanced stats measuring what he contributed to winning & saving runs. And remarkably consistent.

    but he was not close to Maddux in overall value. There peaks are not at all comparable.

  70. Interesting info & story Joseph. Though I cannot fault him for taking that start. He still had plenty of time to rest before the post season started, he would have it seems his usual rest between starts, Especially going only 4 IP, that should not hurt him.

  71. Becoming a closer was a great move because 45 more wins wouldn't have guaranteed anything (it's been extremely difficult for starting pitchers to make it into the Hall without 300 wins), but his dominance as a closer for three years makes his career unique and Hall-worthy.

  72. @ #39, John Autin: "while Brown, with a significant body of postseason work (13 starts), was ordinary overall (4.19 ERA) and pretty ineffective in the World Series (0-3, 6.04 in 4 starts)?"

    This is a perfect example of why it bugs me when people just look at the totals of a small sample and draw a conclusion. I've seen your other posts and I know you know your stuff - you're better than that.

    Brown was the ace of two different back-to-back World Series teams with the '97 Marlins and '98 Padres. His performance, especially in the postseason, was so highly regarded that the Dodgers made him the first 100 million dollar pitcher before the '99 season.

    There was nothing ordinary about Kevin Brown in the postseason just because his final overall ERA was 4.19. When he was 39 years old, pretty much done, and coming off injuries, the Yankees ran him out there against the Red Sox in the infamous 2004 ALCS. He gave up 8 ER in 3.1 IP in that series. In his final game, he loaded the bases and was yanked; it was Javy Vazquez who gave up the grand slam to Johnny Damon. Yes, Brown was responsible for the three baserunners and did not pitch well, but that had a tremendous impact on his final postseason ERA. Before that last series, when he was 39 and had thrown 3200 innings, his postseason ERA was a much better looking 3.45. (Obviously if you take out any pitcher's worst games, he'll come off looking better for it. But when you look at 11 of Brown's 13 playoff starts, his ERA in those 11 starts is actually 2.70.)

    In fact, in his prime he had some amazing playoff games. Since 1990, he has two of the top nine game scores in the postseason. Randy Johnson is the only other pitcher who finds himself on that list twice. Only Clemens and Beckett had games that ranked higher than this gem:

    Brown, 1998 NLDS Gm 1 @ HOU: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 16 SO, W

    Houston was 102-60 that year, led the league in runs with 5.4 per game, led the league in OBP, and had two Hall of Famers in their prime in Biggio and Bagwell. They were 55-26 at home. The opposing pitcher was Randy Johnson, who had obliterated the NL since coming over at the trade deadline (11 GS, 10-1, 4 shutouts, 1.28 ERA, 84.1 IP, 126 SO). And Brown went on the road and dominated. Bob Gibson struck out 17 Tigers in the '68 World Series. No one else has ever struck out 16 in a playoff game. Brown could have tied or set the record had he pitched the ninth, but the plan was to pitch him on three days rest, he had thrown 119 pitches, and they had a reliable closer in Hoffman.

    Then there was this one in the next series:

    Brown, 1998 NLCS Gm 2 @ ATL: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 SO, W, CG, SHO

    Atlanta went 106-56 that year, 56-25 at home. Tom Glavine was the opposing pitcher. The Braves were second in the NL in HR, SLG and OPS that year. They had four 30+ HR hitters in their lineup. And Brown went on the road and threw a shutout.

    Including regular season and playoffs, Brown threw 270.1 innings for the '97 Marlins, then followed that up with 296.1 innings for the '98 Padres. And he still managed the gems I just listed above. After that Game 2 in Atlanta in the '98 NLCS, his career playoff numbers looked like this: 8 GS, 5 QS, 4-2, 3.02 ERA.

    At that point he had thrown 551 innings in the past two seasons. Then Bochy went to him in relief on three days rest in a panic move and he gave up three runs. He then started Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, knowing that the plan was for him to go in Games 1, 4 and 7 on three days rest. He held the 114-win Yankees to two runs over the first six innings and San Diego had a 5-2 lead. In the 7th, he got into trouble, putting two on with one out. He was pulled for Donne Wall, who promptly allowed a three run homer to Chuck Knoblauch, with the two baserunners being credited to Brown. The Padres still would have been in okay shape, but later that inning Mark Langston gave up an upper deck grand slam to Tino Martinez after Tino took what should have been strike three (and out three) right down the middle. Brown, now at 288.1 IP on the season, started Game 4 on three days rest with the Padres down 3 games to 0 and pitched well, allowing 3 ER in 8 IP but the Padres scored zero runs for him and were swept.

    Anyway, the point is, when looking at a small sample like playoff numbers, especially ones compiled a few innings at a time, years apart, the numbers become skewed. Numbers that guys put up when they're washed up may obscure how good they were in their prime. I believe that's the case with Brown. His World Series ERA and his overall postseason ERA don't really indicate how dominant he was and how important he was to the two teams he won pennants for when he was at his best.

  73. #41, Dan W:

    "Another thing, if you just look at him as a starter, I think he averages 12 wins a season. If you take out his CY young season, it's worse. I believe even Don Sutton averaged more wins a season than that."

    It doesn't really make sense to take someone's career totals and look at their average. Most players have partial seasons at the beginning and end of their careers, many are injured at some point, and players from Smoltz's era had two seasons shortened by the strike.

    Take Rickey Henderson for example. If you just take his career totals and divide them by his "25" seasons, you'd think he "averaged" 122 hits and 92 runs per year. We all know he did a whole lot more damage than that. Most players don't have a clean stat sheet without partial seasons like Ichiro or Pujols.

    Ignoring that we're simplifying this way too much by focusing only on wins, with Smoltz it's much more accurate to recognize the following:

    He averaged 14 wins in the five years from 1989-1993. After a down year in '94, he averaged 16 wins in the five years from 1995-1999. Then after his injuries and bullpen stint, he averaged 15 wins in the five years from 2005-2007. In those 13 years, he averaged 14.85 wins. 15 wins per year for 13 years sounds a lot better, and is more indicative of what really happened, than your conclusion of 12 wins per year for 17 years.

    Also, over the 14 years from 1969-1982, age 24-37, Don Sutton averaged 16 wins per season.

  74. I think he'll be helped by being on the same pitching staff as as Maddux and Glavine. There seems to be a consensus that at their peaks the three of them comprised the best pitching staff in a couple of generations, so there will be a push to have all three in the Hall. I wonder, though, if Smoltz had put up the same numbers on another team, or multiple teams, if he'd be considered as much of a lock as he is right now?

  75. I've read most of the posts and people have touched on just about everything but I'll add my 2 cents.

    The similarity between Brown and Smoltz will rightfully work against Smoltz. Smoltz gets extra credit for contributing to a winning team but the opposite should probably be true. Smoltz would be well under 200 wins and close to a .500 pitcher if he were the ace on an average team. The fact that he pitched most of his career as a #3 starter usually put him up against other team's #3's. Brown was a #1 on far worse teams and put up the same numbers.

    To compare apples to apples, compare Smoltz to Maddux, who did pitch against other team's aces and did far better than Smoltzy did against fellow #3's. There is no comparison. I like Smoltz and I'm fine with him going into the Hall if that's what they want to do but I couldn't vote for him. (or Brown or Schilling)...I'd vote for Moose and Pedro though...

  76. #75 reminds me that I wanted to post Smoltz's neutralized stats. He fares pretty darn well, actually.

    Year W L W-L% ERA IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB HR/9
    1988 2 4 .333 6.20 61.0 77 42 10 34 35 1.820 11.4 5.0 5.2 1.03 1.5
    1989 13 9 .591 3.27 201.0 167 73 16 75 162 1.204 7.5 3.4 7.3 2.16 0.7
    1990 12 12 .500 4.00 223.0 206 99 20 90 164 1.327 8.3 3.6 6.6 1.82 0.8
    1991 12 12 .500 4.01 220.0 207 98 16 77 142 1.291 8.5 3.2 5.8 1.84 0.7
    1992 16 10 .615 3.21 238.0 217 85 18 84 207 1.265 8.2 3.2 7.8 2.46 0.7
    1993 14 12 .538 3.63 238.0 208 96 23 100 203 1.294 7.9 3.8 7.7 2.03 0.9
    1994 10 10 .500 4.06 186.0 168 84 21 67 156 1.263 8.1 3.2 7.5 2.33 1.0
    1995 15 8 .652 2.97 215.0 182 71 16 79 215 1.214 7.6 3.3 9.0 2.72 0.7
    1996 19 8 .704 2.70 250.0 190 75 18 53 272 0.972 6.8 1.9 9.8 5.13 0.6
    1997 17 10 .630 2.99 250.0 231 83 21 62 235 1.172 8.3 2.2 8.5 3.79 0.8
    1998 12 6 .667 2.93 163.0 144 53 10 44 168 1.153 8.0 2.4 9.3 3.82 0.6
    1999 13 7 .650 2.98 181.0 160 60 13 38 152 1.094 8.0 1.9 7.6 4.00 0.6
    2001 4 2 .667 3.26 58.0 52 21 7 10 56 1.069 8.1 1.6 8.7 5.60 1.1
    2002 5 3 .625 3.39 77.0 59 29 4 24 82 1.078 6.9 2.8 9.6 3.42 0.5
    2003 6 1 .857 1.14 63.0 47 8 2 8 72 0.873 6.7 1.1 10.3 9.00 0.3
    2004 5 3 .625 2.73 79.0 73 24 8 13 82 1.089 8.3 1.5 9.3 6.31 0.9
    2005 15 9 .625 3.16 222.0 210 78 18 53 163 1.185 8.5 2.1 6.6 3.08 0.7
    2006 15 10 .600 3.33 227.0 215 84 22 54 206 1.185 8.5 2.1 8.2 3.81 0.9
    2007 14 8 .636 3.01 203.0 193 68 18 46 194 1.177 8.6 2.0 8.6 4.22 0.8
    2008 2 1 .667 2.57 28.0 25 8 2 8 36 1.179 8.0 2.6 11.6 4.50 0.6
    2009 2 6 .250 6.28 76.0 94 53 11 18 71 1.474 11.1 2.1 8.4 3.94 1.3
    21 Seasons 223 151 .596 3.36 3459.0 3125 1292 294 1037 3073 1.203 8.1 8.0 2.96 0.8
    W L W-L% ERA IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB HR/9
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
    Generated 9/29/2010.
  77. So his career ERA is essentially identical, as are his strikeouts, but apparently he deserved a bunch more wins (10 more, actually, with 4 fewer losses.)

    Somebody above pointed out that despite playing on a bunch of great teams, he played on quite a few stinkers as well, and I guessed that averaged out.

  78. Smoltz accumulated an extra 1.4 WAR if you count his hitting and defense. Does that help his cause any?

    He also had three stolen bases in postseason play. That's not Hall-worthy on its own, but it sure is cool.

  79. I don't know about that Andy. I think you have to take the neutralized stats with a giant grain of salt. Not counting Smoltz's abbreviated rookie year, Atlanta was 428 games over .500 during John's career. Compare that to Bert Blyleven's 38 for example. I'll bet it would be hard to find another pitcher in the last 30 years whose team was that many games over .500.

    Also, from 91' thru 2005, the Braves had 15 straight winning seasons and were exactly 500 games over .500, which makes John's W-L record not that impressive.

    I'm not trying to dump on Smoltz but I think he's borderline at best and that's because he seems like a great guy and teammate, though Chipper Jones may disagree.

  80. re comment 69

    I didnt suggest that Musisna was the equal of Maddux, he wasn t. At his peak Maddux was the greatest control pitcher of the modern era, a magician who frustrated hitters.

    But I htink my compárison of Mussian and maddux for 18 years is valid. Mussiana was 270 and 153 for his 18 year career, Maddux was 289 and 173, in his first 18 years but he also had 35 more starts in those 18 years. Mussina was an immediate winner, madduz took three eyars to become a winning pitcher.

    Wins and losses and winning percentage are valid.....Granted great pitchers may be with lousy teams or not get adequate run support...but that was hardly the case with Mussina or Maddux........Maddux is a first tier pantheon pitcher, Mussina at the very, very top of the second tier. 270 wins and a 638 winning percetage is better then Juam Marichal 243 142, on a par with Jim Palmer 268-152 and slightly bettter then Bob Feller 266-162. And those guys are all in the Hall! Im not suggesting that Mussina was better then those pitchers, Feller lost 4 years to the war and was a dominant work horse who could have won 220 or more, Marichal was unlucky because of a penicillin injection in his back after the 69 season and might have won more....but you simply can t dismiss 270 wins in 18 years in a 5 man pitching staff era.
    if Mussina had not retired could he have won 30 more games?

    A pitcher still has to pitch well enough to win......and Moose did it for a long time.

  81. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Led the league in wins, then saves, then wins again... That will never be done again.
    One of only two guys to lead the league in both. Derek Lowe is the other.

    No, Lefty Grove did it, 3-Finger Brown did it, Carl Hubbell...I'm sure there are others.

    The fact that he pitched most of his career as a #3 starter usually put him up against other team's #3's.

    Doubtful.

    Sampsonite #72, good post.

  82. @72
    Sampsonite, I appreciate the criticism, as it makes me re-examine my argument.
    But after review, I stand by my original call: Brown's postseason record was not noteworthy, even if we disregard 2004.

    For 1997-98 combined, Brown had a 3.61 postseason ERA, doing his best work in the early rounds. In the WS, he had a 6.04 ERA in 4 starts, with just 1 quality start in 4 tries.
    If that's what inspired the $100 million contract, the Dodgers were even more foolhardy than I thought.

    Taking a closer look:
    -- In 1997, Brown pitched fairly well before the WS, but was not dominant; he had a 3.27 ERA in 3 starts, and his 2 wins in the NLCS had lines of 6 IP/3 ER and 9 IP/4 ER. In the latter, he allowed 11 hits, and after being staked to a 4-0 lead in the top of the 1st, nearly gave it all back in the first 2 innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits and a walk, stranding 4 runners; and after starting the 9th with a 4-run lead, he allowed 3 hits and a run and faced Chipper Jones as the tying run with 2 out. A solid game, a complete game, but nothing special. And then he did poorly in both WS starts -- 6 runs (and 12 baserunners) in 6 IP, and 4 runs in 5 IP. Overall in that title run, Brown had a 4.91 ERA in 5 starts, allowing 18 ER in 33 IP, with 35 hits, 4 HRs, 10 walks and 22 Ks. I am not bedazzled.

    -- In 1998, Brown was very good in 3 starts before the WS, including a CG shutout in the NLCS and a 16-K, 8-scoreless outing to open the NLDS. On the other hand, he had a dreadful relief appearance in NLCS game 5, allowing 3 runs in 1.1 IP on Michael Tucker's 8th-inning HR that turned a 4-2 Padres lead into a 5-4 deficit. And his WS work was again unexceptional, allowing 7 ER in 14.1 IP over 2 starts. Overall, his 1998 postseason line shows a 2.52 ERA on 11 ER in 39.1 IP, with 46 Ks and 17 walks.

    We can each cherry-pick games and stats to make our case look better. But saying that Brown had a 2.70 ERA in 11 of his 13 starts, wow, that's some real legerdemain there. First, I'm pretty sure that's not true, and if so, I'd like to know which 11 starts you're counting; I've tried several different combinations of 11 starts, and the lowest ERA I can get is 2.96. Second, and more importantly, even if your numbers are correct, I have no way of putting it into context; what is any pitcher's ERA going to look like if you throw out his 3 worst games out of 14? (Yes, 14 -- you can't disregard his disastrous relief outing in the WS.)

    Brown had 7 quality starts out of 13 postseason starts, and just 1 of 4 in the World Series. There's no way you can massage that to make it look impressive.

    Your knock on my small sample size would stand up better if you didn't turn around and use an even smaller sample, saying that, "in his prime he had some amazing playoff games." Besides a tiny sample, that's puffery. I count 2 games that I would call outstanding, and a total of 3 games with a game score of 70 or above. During Brown's career alone (1986-2005), 11 other pitchers had 4 or more postseason starts with a game score of 70+, and 6 others had at least 3. What am I missing?

    I think Kevin Brown was a terrific pitcher. I think he's generally underrated, compared to his peers, and is likely to be sadly undervalued by the HOF voters. But his postseason performance still strikes me as ordinary. Two great games in the playoffs certainly don't outweigh his poor WS outings.

  83. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    "Atlanta was 428 games over .500 during John's career. Compare that to Bert Blyleven's 38 for example. I'll bet it would be hard to find another pitcher in the last 30 years whose team was that many games over .500."

    Well, the first place to look would be to the two pitchers who were on the same Braves teams for most of John's career.

    But bear in mind that Atlanta had one mortal lock, and two clear HoFers (or one clear and one borderline if you think Smoltz is not clearly in) in their starting rotation for nearly all of that stretch.

    So, yes, they were a lot of games over .500, but being over .500 because you have great pitching doesn't unbalance a pitcher's W-L in the same way as being over .500 because you have a powerful offense or spectacular defense.

    Powerful offense wins games even though the pitcher underperforms. Powerful defense tends to help a pitcher's runs allowed. Having the best starting rotation in MLB, and a top bullpen as well certainly helps your team win games, but it doesn't help your individual starting pitchers get wins vs. losses.

    1993 serves as a great example of what a lot of the Braves teams of that era looked like. ATL was a dominating team that year -- they won 104 games, and their pythagorean record was also 104-58.

    But they had a slightly below average offense, with an OPS+ of 96. How'd they manage this feat? Well, having three future hall of famers in your starting rotation helps. Also having your #4 SP come up with a 138 ERA+ year helps. And having 200 IP worth (3 guys) of 170+ ERA+ relief available made a big difference too.

    Their team ERA+ was 129 that year. 129. That's an all-star potential year for a starting pitcher, a solid year for a closer or key setup, and the kind of performance you rarely expect from your 4/5 starters or long/situational relievers. The average pitcher they had out there all year long, including scrub sub relievers, was equivalent to a borderline all-star SP or a decent closer. So they won games, primarily on the strength of their pitching. Which means that their pitcher's records mostly look like what they would look like if they played on a team that was average in every way.

    And you'll note that all three of these future hall of famers sometimes get flak for W-L records that don't compare to some other pitchers (who mostly played on great offensive teams). Once in a great while, I hear some fool complain that Maddux or Glavine only have {mumble} 20 win seasons, for instance, as if they were Sutton/Kaat like accumulators. Well, most of their careers, Maddux and Glavine had average run support, not the really great run support you'd tend to assume from a team that wins 90-100+ games. Same goes for Smoltz, and that's one reason you don't see him with 20 wins more than once.

    The once was probably a bit of a fluke also. Maddux had an arguably better pitching year in 1996 by ERA+ and FIP stats but goes 15-11, while JS is 24-8.

    In general, all three of these guys, for most of their careers, they were dealing with average-ish run support. Their teams were winning games, primarily because *they* (and other good pitchers) were pitching, and not random schmoes.

  84. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Nitpick -- B-R includes pitcher hitting when calculating team OPS+. So the BRaves 96 in 1993 is actually better than the NL average of 93. Further, the Braves scored the 3rd most runs in the league, while playing in a park that was close to neutral.

    Also, I have heard the mumbling about Maddux's lack of 20-win seasons (as if his five 19-win seasons are worthless), but Glavine won 20 five times, topped only by Roger Clemens in his era, topped by only five guys in the expansion era.

  85. Smoltz was not only part of the Braves' incredible 15 year run, but also pitched on some pretty bad ATL teams on either end of it. From 1988-1990 and 2006-2008, the Braves went 417-551. During that same stretch, Smoltz went 61-48 with a 3.48 ERA. Therefore, I wouldn't necessarily dismiss Smoltz's totals as being entirely the byproduct of being on a winner. He succeeded even when the Braves were down.

  86. I'm just pointing out that his team played .600 ball with him or without him. I realize that Glavine and Maddux were there but so was Kent Merker. His comps in BR is right where I'd rate him. The 3 HOFers (Drysdale, Bunning and Catfish) had bigger names than their accomplishments would suggest.

    Put him in, just leave room for Brown, Welch, Hershiser, Tiant, Schilling and Jim Perry too. Jim was probably better than Gaylord anyway.

  87. Chuck Hildebrandt Says:

    First ballot slam dunk Hall of Famer.

  88. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    ok, I missed that the team OPS+ included people who were not in the baseline for OPS+. So I guess these teams were slightly above average hitting rather than slightly below average. But only a little, while their pitching ranged from solidly above average to ridiculous.

    And yeah, I haven't heard too many people ragging on Glavine's (not really a lack) of 20s, but Maddux gets a lot of that, which IMO is just ridiculous. It seems as though a lot of writer's and fan's sense of 20 wins is based on a time when SPs usually were in line for 40 starts and didn't ever get taken out on a 100-120 pitch count unless they were coming off an injury. In those days, if you had a really good season, and your run support was average or better, you probably got 20 wins. Since the mid-80s though, even in dominating seasons you need either good run support, or some luck to get 20.

  89. @86
    "Put him in, just leave room for Brown, Welch, Hershiser, Tiant, Schilling and Jim Perry too."

    This poster doesn't seem to understand what Similarity Scores mean. The mere appearance of Brown, Welch, or any other pitcher on Smoltz's "most similar" list, tells us nothing; it's the score that matters.

    The fact that Schilling tops Smoltz's similarity list at 876 tells us that Smoltz was unusual. That's partly because of his years as a closer, and partly because he was very good. Having few pitchers that score as highly similar is actually a common characteristic of Hall of Fame pitchers.

    If you click through all the pitchers on Smoltz's similarity list, you'll notice two things: Except for Schilling, (a) they all have 8 to 10 other pitchers who rate as very similar (score of 900 and up), and (b) Smoltz doesn't show up on any of their lists.

    And by the way, the notion that "#1s" tend to face mostly "#1s", and so on down the line, is a gigantic myth. Just look at a representative sample of box scores.

  90. OK, this is a fun thread

    i think there are certain profiles of starting pitchers who make it into the Hall of Fame
    in no particular order.

    A The guy who wns 300 games.
    he can be a dominant power pitcher for years, (Clemens, Johnson, Carlton, Ryan)
    a guy who does it with finesse and guile (Maddux, Spahn, Glavine, G Perry)
    someone who makes the transition from power to guile (Grove, Seaver)
    a guy who just guts it out to 300 or more (Wynn, Niekro, Sutton),

    but 300 is 300 and in my mind 300 is extraordinary, some of those men are the immortal gods of pitching. 300 is 15 wins for 20 years or 20 for 15 years!!!!!!! Anyone who yips because Maddux didnt win 20 enough times among his 355 WINS , doesn t understand how hard it is to be a great consistent winner ad Massux did it for smomething like 20 or 21 of his 24 years!!!!! ...

    I think there are only 23 men who have won 300 or more and some of those are dead ball era immortals.

    B. The short career thunderbolt who is injured or has to retire or dies (Koufax, Dean and Joss)put up huge numers in their shortened careers

    C. The guy who wins somewhere between 250 and under 300 and they are guys like Feller, Jenkins, Gibson, Roberts, Palmer, Hubbell, Ruffing each made a case as a durable starting picher of either finesse or power or with any number of geat to huge seasons,
    Feller is a god who lost 4 years of the War.
    Musisna s was a control pitcher who won 270.
    Marichal won 243 but he belongs here, another gos who got unlucky.
    Blyleven should be in.

    D the percntage pitchers who just won and won....Ford, Martinez, Gomez..... Ford was crafty and smart, Martinez was a dominating pitcher. Gomez was 189 and 102....

    E The verstiale pitchers...Eckersley and now Smoltz who start and then relieve at different parts of their careers. I think Jim Kaat should be in this class, but he wont get in Someone may want to check Hoyt Wilehem and see how many games he started and won.

    And there are what I call the low 200 guys they put together for enough years to get in, they won in the low 200s ro 230 or so but they were dominant for a numer of years ....

    Oldies like Bob Lemon and hal Newhouser

    Hunter, Bunning Drysdale are in that category. I m not sure aobut Bunning or Drysale s worthiness but they are in. I am sure about Hunter, he did what I expect of any stating picher, just win baby...for two different dynasties.

    And guys like Schilling amd Kevin Brown are in that category. Great to dominating for some years, i would rank Schilling in his prime as a much better picher tehn Brown, but he had great seasons interrupted by injury filled years.

    i cant see Kevin Brown or Bob Welch or Vida Blue or Milt Pappas in the hall...oe ven Orel hershieser although I liked Bulldog......all around 207 to 209 and 146 to 166

    And I htink when we look at pichers, we have to ocmpare them to someone in thei specific categoy after we have evlauated them during their time, massaged the stats, et

    This is by no means scientific, but its hw I look at starters.

  91. @90, Dennis -- someone who makes the transition from power to guile (Grove, Seaver).
    ----------------------------

    Not really disagreeing with your list, but somehow it seems wrong listing Seaver as making the HOF as a 300-game winner who did it by making the "transition from power to guile."

    Seaver didn't make the HOF because he won more than 300 games, anymore than Mickey Mantle made the HOF because he hit more than 500 HRs. Mantle could have called it quits after '64 with about 450 career HRs, and he would have made the HOF. Actually, he could have called it quits after '61 with less than 400 career HRs, and he would have made the HOF. Seaver could have ended his career at exactly ten seasons (the minimum required to be considered for election), winning 180 or so games, leading the league in ERA three times, leading the league in strike outs five times, and striking out more than 200 batters for nine straight seasons, while winning three Cy Young Awards, and he would have been elected on the first ballot.

    Seaver is regarded as one of the great power pitchers of the second-half of the 20th century, and I think Bill James summed it up simply by saying that "an argument can be made that Seaver may be the greatest pitcher ever." That's why Seaver made it to the HOF. Greatness. He just happened to stick around long enough after his peak passed, yet it did nothing to enhance his reputation or increase his chances of making the HOF. He was a lock once he threw the first pitch in 1976, his tenth in the bigs.

  92. @89....I know exactly what Similarity Scores mean. They mean that the players compiled the most similar stats. That alone doesn't mean that they are equal as players but in Smoltz' case, I believe that they are VERY similar pitchers.

    It's not an insult to be compared to any of the guys I mentioned in #86, it's a compliment. I think if you're going to put Drysdale and Hunter in the HOF, all of these guys deserve more consideration. Jim Hunter wasn't any better than any of those guys. Tiant? He was always one of the best pitchers in the league and usually on the worst team. Tiant put up the same numbers as Smoltz but Smoltz was on the best team.

    I was a small Hall guy but when they started putting in less than dominant guys, I turned into a big Hall guy out of fairness to non-media darlings.

    You guys can insist that Smoltz is first ballot and Kevin Brown(for instance) is a 5% guy and it may even turn out to be true, but it's nonsense that there would be a chasm that deep between them.

    There's a line in Pulp Fiction that sums up what I think about Smoltz being a slam dunk HOFer. If you've seen the movie you probably know which one I'm refering to.

    As far as aces facing aces it's not a steadfast rule, especially as the season progresses and especially in recent years, but it's not a myth either. As a whole, Maddux squared off against better pitchers on a regular basis than Smoltz. Look it up.

  93. Why isn't pythagorean used for neutralized ind. stats too? I take the formula used here with a big grain of salt as someone suggested above.

  94. I don't believe in the rule of, if this guy is in than that guy should be in. I don't see Hershiser, Jim Perry, Vida Blue, Bob Welch or David Cone as HoFer's regardless of whether Hunter or Drysdale are in. The bottom line has to be set somewhere and I think they do a reasonably good job at determining the line. I agree there shouldn't be a chasm b/w Smoltz and Brown, but Smoltz was a better pitcher IMO-- His playoff record and 150 saves sets him above Brown. Yes, Brown should get lots more play than 5%, but he is borderline out and Smoltz is borderline solidly IMO --no way is Smoltz a first ballot guy though --that's ridiculous. I'd say he goes in b/w years 4-8 as should Schilling and Mussina -these three are second-tier guys, but clearly in guys. The line with this past generation will be Brown and Pettitte, with perhaps one or neither getting in. Pettitte needs 1-2 more solid and injury free seasons to get in --lets see what he does this playoffs.

  95. Matt Y, I can go along with that analysis.

  96. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Looking at Wins for your first cut to separate guys just seems like a really crazy way to do it. We *know* that W-L is at least 50% things that the pitcher has zero (or almost zero in the NL) control of (i.e. what happens when your team is batting), while ERA+ even if affected by fielding, is still mostly about the pitcher vs. batter confrontation, and FIP stats are almost exclusively about the pitcher vs. batter confrontation.

    It seems to me that looking at stats that are primarily about the runs saved versus an average or replacement pitcher is going to give you a *much* better first cut picture of where pitchers belong in the hall pantheon. Might you look at wins at some point in comparisons of pitchers who are otherwise very similar, to see if it sheds some light on the difference? Sure, although not in the simplistic sense of just looking at raw Wins total or W-L percentage. I wouldn't bother with neutralized stats as they don't really tell you anything that looking at whatever saber stats they are based on doesn't. But WPA might be helpful to get a sense of how well a guy came up in big spots. And looking at W-L compared to other pitchers on the same teams or how an average guy might have been expected to do with that run support, might shed some light when comparing guys with very similar saber resumes such as Smolz, Schilling and Brown.

    But for a first cut number, wins is just terrible. It says as much about the offenses a guy played with as it does about that pitcher.

    For a first cut separator of pitchers, some version of WAR or win shares has got to be the way to go. If you like ERA+, use B-R WAR, if you like FIP stats, use fangraph WAR (personally I think our fielding judgement isn't good enough yet, and FIP underrates guys like glavine with low BABIP, otoh, ERA+ overrates guys with great fielders behind, so you gotta pick your poison). If you think pitchers deserve HoF credit for just showing up, even if they are worse than replacement level, try Win Shares.

    If you really like raw wins better than any of those other saber stats as a measure of a pitcher, then, I gotta say, you just don't get it. Don't be afraid of the newer stats. They are *better* than the old stats, that is *why* a bunch of very smart people studied statistics and baseball for *years* to come up with them, because the old stats weren't very good and they wanted to improve them. Understand them, and understand why they are better, and which ones make more sense for different purposes and why.

    The problem with wins is that 1/2 of it is about your offense. If you put an average or somewhat above average pitcher on an offensive powerhouse team for 15-20 years, they are going to come up with a lot of wins (jack morris says hello), but that doesn't make them hall-worthy.

  97. I agree #96, but i still like to at least look at wins and win%, but it shouldn't be the first cut.

  98. Mike,

    It seems Fangraph's WAR usually rates a pitcher 10-20 points higher than B-R WAR --do you have sense with how a 80 WAR at fangraph rates with a 65 WAR at B-R? Is that about equal? I know you'd want to look deeper, but i just want to get a more general sense. Or how a FIP of 3.23 rates with an ERA+ of 125? I actually like looking at all the sites when evaluating a player. I know a WAR of 60 for a pitcher at BG is generally around a 55 at B-R or a WARP of 60 at BP is about the same as 55 --these are again general and obviously it would be best to look deeper at each player and each individual formula.

  99. 91
    I grew up in New York and followed the Mets for years and I remember (as a 14 year old) watching Tom Seaver in his rookie year...and of course the incredible 69 year. And I agree with you in your enthusiasm about Seaver, and I ve read Bill James. And James point is that Seaver had a lot of no decisions and lost some close ones because he didnt get enough run support or defense from bad Mets teams. it would be interesting to know what his record COULD have been.

    For me the greatet picher of post 1950 post baseball and possibly in baseball history is Clemens. I have Grove and Clemens as the two best of the live ball era and after that.....and in no particular order.....Spahn, Maddux, Seaver, R Johnson, Koufax, Feller, Martinez, Carlton Ford and Marichal. I have a weakness for the last two, but could say Gibson and Ryan or Perry and ....I wouldn t agree but i owuldnt put up a big fight its prettys ubjective.

    I m not saying that Seaver didnt have the Hall of fame made before he reached 300, he msot certianly did, Im saying that he made the transition from power to guile and a complete mental mastery of his craft to get from 260 270 wins or so to 311.....One of the great , great pitchers in baseball history.

    We all know the argument for Blyleven, I do like Tiant and two guys I think could and should be in the HOF, but may never get in....are Tommy John and Jim Kaat.

  100. @99, I'm on board regarding Clemens possibly being the greatest. That's not a popular opinion now because of the PED allegations, and that does complicate the ratings. Yet I can only judge a player by what they did on the field, since I don't know what he did, when he did it, and how exactly how it helped him, if at all, and what other players also took PEDs that we just don't know about. Time will sort much of this out.

    That was the most pitching-rich period in baseball since I've been watching the game, so much so that a player like Blyleven was not appreciated, although I think it was more the media than the fans. Since you said you were 14 in Seaver's rookie year, that means I'm about eight years younger, which means I saw all the great pitchers from the late 60s into the 70s pitch. There were others in there, such as Palmer and Jenkins, which is the point. It wasn't just a few top-flight pitchers to be considered.

    While I know the sabermetric community has been in favor of Blyleven's HOF election, I also think the majority of fans from the 60s forward also believe Blyleven should be in the Hall. A couple weeks back I was sitting with two friends who don't follow baseball to the degree I do, but are still fans, and came of age when Blyleven was pitching. I asked them simply if they thought Blyleven should be in the Hall. Both answered yes without hesitation, and one was a bit stunned because he just assumed Blyleven had been elected a long time ago.

    It's the old sports writers who for some reason have kept Blyleven out, yet it makes "sense." These were the same guys who started the nonsense discussion that has haunted Blyleven his entire career, which is that he some how would figure out a way to lose the close games. I remember listening to Yankee broadcasts in the 70s when this was said, and even as a young teenager I knew it was pure bullshit, knowing if Blyleven was on the great Oakland A's teams or Baltimore Orioles' teams, he'd be winning 25 games a year!

  101. Mike Felber Says:

    Michael E. Sullivan, I almost completely agree. Though Win Shares are problematic when they give credit for below replacement level play. That can be factored out. Generally, like James & most do, ANY measure of overall greatness must include peak value. How dominating you were for a few years or so is huge. So it makes no sense to say something like Schilling or Smoltz was "much better" than Brown at their respective peaks. If you look at consecutive years of dominance esp., Brown clearly beats them both.

    Dennis, I did not say you claimed that Mussina is as good as Maddux. I said essentially that he was not "not quite" Maddux, as you claimed. This goes back to what Mr. Sullivan & others show: wins are a tortured, terrible way to judge just what a pitcher did/gave a team. Using them would necessitate systemically controlling for adjusting for so many things-runs support, what the relievers do (especially in the last 2 generations)...& still would yield inferior results compared to the things mentioned in post #96. Plus take the runs & wins saved adjusted stats on this site's player's pages as better.

    "Just win baby". The massive problem with that term is that who wins how often is so influenced by these factors & others. So a Catfish Hunter & Jack Morris are seen properly as just decent pitchers for their careers, LUCKY to have their stats blown up by context. When we examine very closely ideas like Morris "pitched to the score", or did better in tight situations: it proves to be untrue. And a Jim Kaat is nothing like as good a Bert Blyleven. Mussina should be considered easily HOF worthy, but his best years especially do not approach Maddux. Who lost time during his best to labor stoppages. Check out his top ERA + years-they have rarely been equaled or approached, & only surpassed in his era by Pedro.

  102. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    One of the best ways to appreciate Greg Maddux is to cut his career off after 1997. That's the same number of seasons Sandy Koufax played. If you do that, his *raw* ERA is very nearly as good (2.83 vs. 2.76) despite pitching in a higher offense era. His ERA+ is 143 to Koufax's 131. He had more IP 2600 vs. 2300. He did have a lot fewer SOs, but still a very high number for a finesse pitcher with an 87mph fastball, and of course, 200 fewer BBs. His career WHIP is 1.12 vs. Koufax's 1.106, again raw numbers, and played in a higher offense era. WAR gives Maddux the nod at 61.3 vs. 54.5. It's pretty safe to say that, like Seaver, Greg would have had a pretty solid hall of fame case (borderline on career totals, and out of sight on peak) if he'd never played baseball after his first 10 full years in the league. After 12 years even including his 1986 cup of coffee as a year, he was a mortal lock. Better than Koufax. But he played another 11 years at the standard of a long career achievement HoF guy.

    His last 11 years didn't match the first 12, but they still look like half of say Tom Glavine or Mike Mussina's career. 2400 IP, 122 ERA+ 1500 Ks 35 WAR.

    Koufax is the guy that just blew everybody away with a short career. and for his first 12 years, Maddux was better. For his best 4, 5, 6 or 7 years vs. Sandy's best, Maddux was better.

    Maddux is no question a first tier HoF guy, in the conversation for best ever. There are some guys who matched his peak (pedro, roger, seaver, randy j), but nobody really did notably better over a peak of 4-8 years.

  103. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Oh, Matt. I don't really have much help for you on appreciating other site's WAR numbers. I don't reference them nearly as often as I do B-R.

    I do note that one site (BG I think) had pitchers with generally higher numbers than here, while position players generally had lower numbers than B-R.

  104. Oh Mike. Thanks for the shred of help. :-)

  105. 101 and 102

    i do respect the new stats, not tot he extent that someone of you do...but sufficient. I do think its hard to compare pitcherse from differnet eras and say this one was clearly better was better then that one.

    In the case of Maddux vs. Koufax, yes to can compare Maddux an dhis frist twelve years against Koufax career.

    Maddux never pitched more then 268 innings in a year and yes he led the NL several times. But Koufax pitched 311, 323 and 335 innings in his last 4 years, had to ice his arm and then edure excruciaitng pain with a burning heating agent every four days so he could pitch...

    And that is what stats do not divulge what does a picher do, what is he prepared to do to pitch his regular turn in the rotation. And Maddux was no slouch, he may have been one of the best prepared pichers whoe ver lived. He knew what he wanted todo with each hitter.

    Maddux won I believe 5 ERA titles, Koufax won also 5 in....a row.

    If people think that no one dominated like Maddux over a 4 6 year period, I ve got two words for you. Lefty Grove, who went 152 and 141 between 1928 and 1933, I wont mention the ERA titles and SO titles.
    Again its two pitchers from two different eras.both dominat in different ways. But I think Grove and Clemens are the two great pitchers of the live ball era. because of their wins, their high ercentages, their multiple ERA titles and strikeout titles..and bear in mind there was no Cy Young piching titles during Grove s era. ...

    But I think we can compare Clemens and Maddux heads up and Clemens was way ahead.

    Finally for all of you guys who think that wins are too simplistic, give us one or two guys from the live ball era, who are not in the HOF and you think they belong there, but not because f how many games they won or thir won loss %.

    But you cant use Blyleven, because almost all of us agree that Blyleven should be in the HOF.

  106. Mike Felber Says:

    Guys with high wins TEND to be very good. That does not say how good, or how we should handle borderline cases. We are saying that it makes sense to use the many good ways to isolate performances, NOT W-L, to judge how good.

    There are just not that many HOF e3ligible pitchers that are clearly worthy. But some are at least borderline. A good example of 1, is Rick Reuschel. Over 66 WAR, good peak: but given his teams/run support, you would not consider him as such given either total wins or win %: 214-191.

    Grove was amazing-especially since he had 5 excellent years even after he hurt his arm & lost his great velocity. But he was helped in W-L by his great teams/line ups/run support. Not that he was not superb, but the few pitchers who had comparable, or sometimes better top years-use ERA + as a rought measure-rarely had the W-L records.

  107. 06

    Mike, guys with high wibt totals tend to be very good?

    Maybe we can say that all of those new statisitcs fall into place and contribute to those high win totals.

    I saw Reuschel pitch in 89 wiit the Giants, I lived in San Franciso, he went 17-8 that year and he was a veteran pitcher who knew how to pitch.

    There are 2 guys I really like in that low 200 win category..... Blly Pierece and Jim Perry, with btter records then Reuschel I doubt if either one will ever get in the HOF.

    Just a sidenote to Koufax vs Maddux....In 1992 and 1997, Maddux went 19-2 and 19-4 (unblievably great great years) won the CYA in 92 got blown away by Pedro in 97,. In 1964, Koufax went 19-5 and finshed third in the CYA wth 1 vote!!!! (only one award, only 20 voters....For Koufax 19-5 was just an injury shortened season, he pitched 223 innings and it was stuck between win totals of 25, 26 and 27 during his peak.

    Again when we compare it should within the context of the era. Koufax was expected to start 40 times and pich 320 innings, Maddux wasn t expected to do that. I think that either would have been wildly succesful in the others s era.

  108. Mike Felber Says:

    Yes, the stats that isolate performance contribute to wins. But there are other powerful, random factors that contribute to wins, chief amongst them run support, what relievers do, also defense. So they are a poor place to start & find out how good or bad a pitcher is. Randy Johnso deserved the Cy Young award a few years ago, barely had a winning record: was better than Clemens w/that extraordinary W-L record 20-3. Ryan had an excellent 8-16 year, led the league in H/9, Ks, Era, Era +...These are fairly extreme examples, yet they exists in the other, exaggerating quality direction also. But routinely wins are an inexact at best measure of how good a player is. We do not find that those who win better than their isolated (actually what they did) stats were generally at all better in "clutch" pitching, that has been debunked many times.

    To use them at all to gauge quality pitching is folly.

  109. Mike
    but what you ve done is use years from the stats of pitcers who are in the Hall of Fame for all the other big yars that they had!!!!

    Ryan was 8 and 16 one year, true and led the league in his usual statistical categories, but he also won 312 other games!!!! and lost 290!!!!! Johnson had dominating years, including 18-2, 20-4 , 21-6 24-5 and won 303 games in his career!!!! Respectfully, I dont think you made your point.

    And maybe Clemens didn t seserve the CYA for the 20-3 year he had, but he won 6 others!!!!!!!!

    And Bill James made the point that, Jim Bunning was 17 and 15 for one year and he thought that Bunning was the best picher in the NL that year. I saw Bunning pich, he waa a tough tough pitcher and he is in he HOF, with a 224 and 184 career record. He wasnt Spahn or Koufax or Marichal, but he was a hell of a pitcher and has some great seasons with 18 or 19 wins and a high winning percentage ....

    and I never claimed that a pitcher could be evaluated by one year, I ve said that to evaluarte a picher you look at his entire career...and then you factor in all the mitigating circumstances that you want. And no one has come up with a pitcher with a less then stellar career W L record that had the other stats (that everyobne likes) in place for the HOF.

    Someone I really liked was Ron Guidry (170 91 over 14 seasons) who you might make a case for. He had one of the most marvelous seasons in history (25-3) in 1978). two other twenty games wins and the cloest similarity pitcher is Sandy Koufax (165-87) who won 25 or more three times...

    But Guidry wasnt Koufax....

    Why is one in the Hall and the other not?