Monthly archives: September 2007
First Place, Baby!
The Phils charged out of the gate tonight scoring four runs in the first inning with some timely hitting and even more timely Brave errors. Jimmy Rollins got it going, lining a single on the first pitch from John Smoltz. He scored on a Victorino bunt and a throwing error by Smoltz. Another error and line-drive homer from Ryan Howard put them up to stay 4-0.
Meanwhile the Mets behind Pedro Martinez were in the midst of being shut out by Joel Pineiro on a three-hitter. And—poof!—the Phillies were in first place for the first time this season. Hell, it’s the first time they have been in first place since opening day last year (April 2) and that’s just because all of the teams in their division were 0-0. The last time they were tied for first with an actual record was a year earlier, April 6, 2005, when they were tied at 1-1 with three other teams in the division.
This all comes after trailing the Mets by 7 games just 15 days ago—right before the Phils swept the Mets. Since September 12, the Phillies are 11-3 while the Mets have slouched to 4-10, including their current four-game losing streak. The Mets now play host to the Marlins and the Phils welcome the Nats. Things look bright, bit the Phils do have Adam Eaton and the slumping Jamie Moyer starting in the last two games.
Anyway, if the Phillies pull off the division title, they will be the first team to come back from at least seven games back after September 6. Here are the latest that any team trailed by at least seven games and then went on to win a division or league title, of course, led by the Cards dancing on the ’64 Phils grave:
Only one other team was behind by seven games as late as September 12 and was able to grab a division/league lead. The 1964 Reds were seven games behind the Phillies on September 18. They grabbed a share of the league lead (with the Cards) on October 3 only to fall to third by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the Yankees locked up their thirteenth straight playoff appearance while eliminating the reigning AL champ from postseason. The reigning World Series champ, the Cards, were already out.
The Tigers and Cards are actually competing for the worst combined record by two World Series competitors the year after the Series. At least, they are in the top ten:
As far as the Yankees feat—it grows to 14 straight years if you include the strike shortened 1994 season—is the longest streak in baseball history:
As far as the other end of the spectrum is concerned, the Brewers are looking to end their 25-year postseason drought. That ties them for the 14th longest streak in baseball history:
Who Writes This Stuff?
God hates Phillies fans. How can this happen every year?
The Phils won tonight to even their series with the Braves and inch a bit closer to the floundering Mets in the NL East race. They were aided by a Larry Jones error and a much needed effective start from Kyle Lohse. The Nats continued to play the spoiler with a five-run fifth that helped them sweep the Mets at Shea. Maybe Washington should get in the playoffs. The Phils now trail the Mets by one game, and would apparently be doomed if the season were another week longer.
Unfortunately, the Padres won big (11-3) in San Francisco. So the Phils still trail by one game in the wild card race.
The Phillies now must hope that Adam Eaton (Eek!) can beat John Smoltz (Yow!) tomorrow. While Pedro Martinez goes for the Mets. The Phils have held a playoff spot for one day this season and that was a day (Monday) that they were idle.
The Phils could become the first team to own at least a share of a playoff spot for just one day and that day was in September. Here are the latest dates for a team that occupied a playoff spot for day:
This plot is getting more contrived than the last season of 24. Somehow it still has at least a few more twists and turns left, but I know that the Phils will again end up a game short again.
Phils Back into a Playoff Spot
The Phillies had the night off but that didn’t stop them from doing what they failed to do yesterday. With the Padres and Mets both losing, the Phils are now tied for the wild card lead and are just twp games behind in the NL East race.
With that the Phils find themselves in possession of at least a share of a playoff spot for the first time in almost exactly a year. Last September 25, they were tied for the wild card lead with the Dodgers, which they, of course, did not nab.
Since September 1, 2005, the team has spent a grand total of ten days in possession of a playoff spot but just one day in total in first place. Here are the last ten days that the Phillies either had sole or shared possession of a playoff spot:
You’ll notice that the one day in first was April 2, opening day last year. The last day that the Phillies were in first after April was July 22, 2004, when they were tied with the Braves with a 50-45 record. You know how that one turned out.
If the Phillies had won yesterday, they would now be a game up in the wild card. The odds of a team in possession of a playoff spot on Sept. 24 retaining that spot are about 74%. Only 24% of all teams a game on 9/24 back have ever come back:
Note that a third of the teams that were two game back on Sept. 24 ended up winning the playoff spot. So the division title is far from out of reach. If the Mets had won tonight, the Phils would have been 2.5 games back, a deficit that just 8% of all teams have overcome this late in the year.
Now, given all this it is all the more perplexing why Charlie “I Need a Friggin’” Manuel pulled starter Cole Hamels after 76 pitches. I remember Leo Mazzone saying once that there was no real difference between 75 and 100 or 110 pitches thrown in a game. No one knows the magic number, but the amount of damage done by 75 pitches and 100 or so is largely negligible.
Let’s say Hamels, who had struck out 5 of his last 8, stayed in the game for an inning or two more. The Phils then avoid brining in Antonio Alfonseca, who allowed two runs. It seemed Manuel, who loves to go to the hot pitching arm, was overly impressed by the job the Phils pen had done overall since the 13-11 Cardinal debacle. The Phils lost the game but Manuel was reportedly gratified that the tail-end of the bullpen was rested for the upcoming series.
When you have a day off the next day this late in a pennant race, every pitcher should be available. And Hamels who will likely have one or two starts left this year, can rest in October, just as Phils pitchers have done for decades. How many games has this execrable manager cost the team throughout the year? I wonder why they finish a few games out each year.
By the way, the Yankees are also two behind in their division race after losing 4-1 to the Blue Jays. If the Yanks win the division they will become just the second team to come back from 14 games back to win a division or league, the other being the 1914 Mircle Braves. I think Torre was the catcher on that team.
Like 1964 All Over Again (But in Reverse)
It's like déjà vu all over again.
The Phillies overcame a Brett Myers blown save in the tenth to beat the Cards, 7-4, in fourteen innings for their sixth straight win. They now stand 1-1/2 games behind the collapsing Metsgoes in the NL East. Six days ago they were seven games back. No team has come back from more than 6 games after the first week of September to win their division/league.
Just by getting within a game and a half of the Mets in September after trailing by seven is an historic feat. Just 15 teams have done it including the '07 Phils. The Phils are one of two teams, the '06 Atsros being the other, to make that comeback in less than a week. Both teams made their sudden ascension in six days. Unfortunately for the Phils, that Astro team did not make the playoffs. (And the good news for the Mets is that the team that held on to beat the Astros, the Cardinals, ended up winning the World Series.)
Here are all the teams that went from seven or more games out to less than two games out in September with the number of days that ascension took and their eventual record:
I like the Phils chances of getting to a half game out. Today the Mets turn to Mike Pelfrey, who is 2-7 with a 5.23 ERA and who has not started a game in 12 days, to avoid a sweep in DC. The Mets are 3-10 in games in which he has pitched. The Phils turn to veteran's veteran Jamie Moyer, who is 13-11 overall and 6-4 in the second half despite a 6.26 ERA, a 1.65 WHIP, and a .322 opponent's batting average. The Phils' opponents, the Cardinals, have lost 15 of 16 while the Mets' opponents, the Nats, are 10-6 in September. And Leon is getting laaaaaaaarger!
Winning Despite Charlie
Can someone please tell Charlie "I Need a Friggin'" Manuel that his team is in a pennant race?
The Phils won a wild one last night, 13-11, despite their manager's attempt to turn over the leas that would make Jim Fregosi's effort in the '93 World Series seem tame by comparison.
The Phils led 11-0 in the middle of the sixth inning. Kyle Kendrick was cruising to his ninth win, the Mets were getting pummeled by the lowly Nats, all was well. Then ol' Chowlie started doin' some thin'in' aroun' here. He pulled Kendrick after a shaky bottom to the sixth (three runs) even though he had thrown just 89 pitches and the closer (Brett Myers) and both of their more reliable setup men (Tom Gordon and J.C. Romero) were being given the night off.
As Mitch Williams said after the game, there are no nights off in a pennant race (though Williams was snakebitten during his career by offering to pitch too often, but enough about Jim Fregosi). That all three were unavailable after a 10-6 win is ludicrous. Yes, that win was a must-have against the Mets, but Romero threw just four pitches in a third of an inning of work and Gordon and Myers went just an inning each with 16 and 17 pitches, respectively.
So Manuel was nine outs away from possibly bring his team within 2-1/2 games of their first division title in 14 seasons, and he turns to drum roll please Clay Condrey !?!? Really. Condrey owned a 5-0 record but a hefty, though not as compared to most of the Phils bullpen, ERA at 4.70. He quickly allowed five runs on four hits without recording an out though to be fair a those hits were seeing-eye singles. Then Joe Table came in to throw more gas on the fire.
It was 12-9 at the end of the seventh inning, and still the regular setup-closers were unavailable. Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee got out the old dartboard and picked four more pitchers who helped them stumble to the eventual win. Speaking of stumbling, an inning-ending flyout turned into spectacular falling catch by Aaron Rowand (Maybe he thought he had to keep his feet in bounds for the touchdown to count) saved two runs and the lead. It was 12-11 at the end of the eighth. Rowand homered and Franciso Rosario stumbled through two-thirds of an inning to earn his first career save.
In all the Phils used six relievers none of whom had an ERA under 5.11 at the end of the game. In their three innings of work, they allowed 8 hits and 8 runs. The Phils now own a 4.66 ERA in the bullpen while their starting pitchers boast a 4.99 ERA. Their 4.87 team ERA is fifth worst in baseball (their bullpen ERA is the fifth worst while their starters are sixth worst), they have used a club record 28 pitchers, and somehow they are still in contention.
Actually, the Phils ERA would be just the ninth worst among all first-place/playoffs teams all time:
If the Phillies had lost not only would they have missed a golden opportunity to close in on the Mets for first place, they would have witnessed one of the biggest comebacks in recorded baseball history. There are just seven comebacks of 11 or more runs in history:
As the Phils inch closer to first, keep in mind that just 19% of all teams that trailed a playoff spot by 2-1/2 games made the playoffs (6 of 32):
But I'm staying optimistic. Cole Hamels is pitching today. The Mets have lost four games straight. And the Eagles' season is over Oops, let's stay optimistic.
Sweeping Success? —Part Two
Can the Phils just play the Mets everyday?
The Phils completed their third sweep of the Mets yesterday with a 10-6 induced by a Greg Dobbs-pinch hit grand slam in the sixth. The Phils are now 3-1/2 games behind the Mets for the NL East title and 1.5 behind San Diego in wild card with 13 games left to play. Whatever the Phils do, they are 12-6 for the season against the Mets.
But I do not know what to the think. After completing their last Mets sweep on August 30, they were two games out of first place and out of the wild card lead with a 71-62 record. Then the Phils went 6-7 in two series against the worst team in the NL (the Marlins), one against the floundering Braves, and another against the fourth-place Rockies. And then they sweep the Mets again!?!
I just don't get it. Is this team for real?
Sweeping an opponent three times in a season is not that rare. It had been done 343 times as of the end of the 2006 season (including series of at least . Three teams did it last year: Houston swept Pittsburgh three times, Boston swept Baltimore three times, and the A's swept the M's four times.
However, what the Phils did is somewhat rare. It is just the sixth time in baseball history that one of the top two teams in a division or league swept the other top two team three times over the course of a season. The last time it was done was 1996. The only other time the second-place team was within striking distance (five games) was in the historic 1951 Dodger-Giant pennant race:
As for the Phils beating the Mets twelve times this year, there has only been one other second-place team (the '76 O's) that beat the first-place team more times (assuming the Mets hold on to win the division). Here are the most wins:
So what does this mean for the Phillies? Remember that no team has ever come back to win its division/league after trailing by more than six games as late in the season as the Phils did. They Phils were 6-1/2 games back when their series with the Mets began (Sept. 13).
History is not in the Phils corner even after the sweep. Teams that were 3-1/2 games out of a playoff spot on September 17 have won that spot just 3% of the time (i.e., 1 out of 32). Teams 1-1/2 games from a playoff spot, as the Phils are in the wild card race, won just 18% of the time (4 out of 22). Overall any team not in possession of a playoff spot on September 17 but within six games of one have a 12% chance of getting it. No team trailing by more than six games on this date has come back to win a playoff spot.
Here are the breakdowns by games back (for league, division, and wild card races). Note the big dropoff after three games back:
Things look bright with the team ace, Cole Hamels, ready to come off the DL and start in the upcoming Cards series, his first start in a month. But one still has to be realistic and admit that the Phils are still swimming upstream. History is not on their side.
Kissing Those Playoff Chances Goodbye
The Phils rode another execrable start by free agent signee extraordinaire, Adam Eaton, to an 8-2 loss to the Rockies, falling into a virtual tie with them for second place in the wild card hunt.
Eaton allowed three home runs and four runs in five innings. In total the Phils used five pitchers, none of whom ended the night with an ERA under 4.75. Eaton continues to astound raising his ERA to 6.31, the highest among all major-league pitchers qualifying for the ERA crown by 40 points.
The Phils must now hope that the Dodgers overcome a 7-2 Padres lead in the bottom of the seventh to stave off falling behind San Diego by 2-1/2 games in the wild card hunt. Then again, that would put the Dodgers, Phils, and Rockies in a virtual three-way tie for second, a game and one-half behind the Padres.
Historically, teams that trailed a playoff leader by 2.5 games at the end of September 11 have ended up making the playoffs just 3% of the time (once in 35 tries) while those trailing by 1.5 have made the playoffs 16% of the time (5 in 31).
As for the NL East crown, the Phils remain six games behind the Mets who lost big (13-5) to Atlanta tonight. That's a lucky break since no team has come back from a deficit of over six games from September tenth on. If history is any indication, the Phils actually have a better chance of catching the Mets than the Padres. Teams trailing a playoff leader by six games, have made the playoffs 8% of the time (3 of 37).
Keep in mind that any team that has possession of a playoff spot as of September 11 has kept that spot 71% of the time. Also, even though the Phils can fall of the map in the NL East playoff race by falling behind by another game, they can't virtually eliminate themselves from the wild card race until they meet the Mets this weekend.
So what do we have ahead? Another season that comes down to the wire with the Phils tangentially approaching a playoff spot and never actually getting it. Time's running out on this season. Charlie Manuel's trying to swing a two-year extension. Ruben Amaro Jr. is rumored to be in the running for the Pirate GM joband you thought this team was run poorly? And we still have two more years of Adam Eaton and one more of Tom Gordon.
Oddities and Endities
Curtis Granderson stole his twentieth base yesterday to join the ultra-elite 20-20-20-20 club. This is not a club with members who are really devoted to Hugh Downs. It is a club of men who have hit 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 homers, and 20 stolen bases in one season, and Granderson is its third member.
Here is the 20-20-20-20 club:
Of course the sticking point for future members of the club is the 20 triples part. Since 1949, there have been just six 20-triple seasons. Oddly, two of those men are in the Quad-20 club:
Granderson actually has the most triples in a season since Dale Mitchell's 23 in 1949. He is just the 52nd man in baseball history to collect 22 or more triples in a season. Just 31 have more than 22. Granderson projects to 25 for the season. That would be the most since Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler's 26 in 1925. Just 18 men have amassed 25 triples, and just 7 since 1900. The most ever collected were Chief Wilson's 36 in 1912.
The problem with making the Quad-20 club is that triples declined as home runs gained prominence (naturally) in the 1920s. In the 1910s, about two percent of all batters who qualified for the batting title (using today's rules) had 20 or more triples while just 0.33% hit 20 home runs. By the Thirties those numbers were reversed: almost three percentage of qualified batters hit 20 homers while 0.08% hit 20 triples. Also, the percentage of qualified batters collecting 20 stolen bases has dropped from 78% in the 1890s to over 4% in the 1930s to about 20% today.
The decade with the best odds of a player making the Quad-20 list was the 1920s as triples started "becoming" home runs. The expectations for the last two decades (2000s numbers through 2006) are next due to the sustained resurgence of the stolen bases, the glut of home runs and doubles, and the large number of players and teams.
Here's a quicky table with the number of qualifying player-seasons per decade for each of the Quad-20 legs. Note that overall the expectation is that 6 players would have made the club while just three have:
Meanwhile, Dontrelle Willis gave up seven runs through three innings to help the Phils hang in the wild card hunt. Willis fell to 8-15 with a 5.24 ERA. He potentially becomes a free agent this offseason and is now two years removed from his 22-10 Cy Young runner-up season. At 25, Willis could join a rather elite list soon.
Willis could become the 91st pitcher to win twenty games and be washed up by the age of thirty. Since 1920 there have been just seven men to accomplish this dubious feat. Ron Bryant was the last, having won 24 at age 25 in 1973 and finishing his career at age 27 in 1975. Denny McLain, 7-11's most famous former employee, is the previous man to do it.
Here are all the men since 1920 to do it:
Rick Ankiel was developing into on of the nicest stories. Ankiel's return as a slugging right fielder after his demise as a pitcher rivaled Roy Hobbs for drama. He capped a brilliant month with a 3-for-4 with 2 home runs, 4 runs, and 7 RBI in a16-4 Cardinals win yesterday.
He now has ungodly numbers through 23 games: 9 HR, 29 RBI, .358 BA, .409 OBP, .765 SLUG, and a 1.174 OPS. That translates into 63 RBI and 204 RBI in a 162-game season. No man has hit as many home runs in fewer games than Ankiel:
Great story, right?
Not so fast. Before you can say, World's Greatest Fans Ankiel is embroiled in a performance-enhancing drug scandal. Maybe he is trying to emulate Hobbs and end his season as ignominiously as the fictional player did (in the book, at least). The New York Daily News reports that Ankiel received a year's supply of HGH, along with a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni, in 2004 from a pharmacy "that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation".
Baseball gets a good story and it instantly transforms into another black eye.
It seems that of all the scandals that have occurred in other sports, only the morass that surrounds Michael Vick outstrips baseball's dirty little secret steroids (or to be more exact, performance-enhancing drugs).
I am the last person to chicken-little over steroidsI prefer to blame rapid expansion and bandbox ballparks for the current slugging glutbut this sport cannot sustain so much poor PR. The game is no longer the revered national pastime it once was. Baseball is more like a Jay Leno punchline among the sports world, the Britney Spears of sport.
Football just sustained a very large scandal, i.e., Michael Vick, and yet the hype for the new season is as big as ever. ESPN may as well be remained the Football Channel given their obsequious devotion to the gridiron.
Basketball had a referee involved in a gambling scandal. The outcry has been minimal.
Hockey just went through scandal in which an active assistant coach and the wife of its biggest star were allegedly running a gambling ring. They were acquitted, but no one batted an eye when the stories being published seem to point to their guilt. Then again, no one seems to notice hockey one way or the other.
Is it fair? No. Do I think that performance enhancers are more prevalent in baseball than other sports, especially football? Not really. But that doesn't really matter. Baseball has a bad image and every one of these stories tarnishes it even further.
I was against the players union given into any further intrusions into its members' lives, but the union has to realize that what's is devastating to the game is devastating to the union as well. This one is particularly aggravating given that it negates the game's feel-good summer story.
Baseball is left with a collection of aging stars that are known for various peccadilloes: Bonds for steroids, Sosa for corking his bat and the hint of steroids, A-Rod for making too much money and for supposedly choking, etc. Young stars seem unable to make a cultural impact because of the prevalent sentiments regarding the sport. Really since the 1994 strike, fans have had a rather adversarial approach to baseball. The only description for their derisive approach to the game and their reveling in the minutest of its scandals is schadenfreude.
Baseball looks great financially, attendance is higher than ever, just about every team will have a relatively new, state-of-the-art stadium within a few years, and yet it is at a crossroads. The lords of the game have run it like a idiosyncratic gentlemen's club instead of a multi-billion dollar, international entertainment business. They seem to think that if they wait out any scandal they will just go away.
Steroids is not going away. But the fans may be, as younger fans turn to other activities and the older ones age and expire.
The Phils were cruising to an 8-2 win which would put them four games behind the shut-out Mets for first in the East and just two out in the wild card. Then their ever-porous bullpen allowed seven runs in an inning and two thirds on eight hits and three walks. "Flash Flood" Gordon and Brett "Joe Table" Myers were the culprits and they threw 60 pitches and faced 16 batters in those 1.2 innings.
Myers, who has gotten bombed in two of his last five appearances, owns a 4.24 ERA, 8 saves, and a 2-4 record in his 16 appearances since returning from the DL on July 28. Maybe it's time to throw in the towel on his closer experiment. Really, they got about three good weeks of work out him before he went on the DL. Myers owns a 3.55 ERA in the bullpen, but his 5.09 overall ERA which means he would rank 30th on the all-time list for highest ERA for a pitcher with at least 14 saves (see below).
I am also left wondering how the Phils cannot find somewhere in the organization a better outfielder to fill in as a defensive replacement than the phundamentally flowed Chris Roberson, whose throw helped the Braves win. The roster expanded five days ago and still the Phils are carrying just five outfielders, one of which (Shane Victorino) appears to still be physically unable to play and another (Pat Burrell) is a defensive liability. Can it be possible that there is no young rangy center fielder who can spell Burrell for an inning or two anywhere in the organization? Lonnie "Skates" Smith was used in this role for about five seasonsI'm exaggeratingbefore he became an established major-leaguer. Then again, their GM is semi-retiredhe can't be expected to deal with such trivialities.
The Metro (a.k.a., Philly's s_ _t rag) ranked the loss as their third worst of the season. Number one was the August 19 loss to Pittsburgh after a 4-1 lead with two outs in the seventh. Number two was the July 3, thirteen-inning loss to the 'Stros aided by a Lance Barksdale miscall on a should-have-been game-ending double play. This one is the worst in my book.
It is just the third time in franchise history that the Phils lost a game after securing a six-run lead with just six opponent outs remaining. On May 7, 1925, the Phils led the Giants 8-2 after innings and then New York scored nine runs in the top of the ninth en route to a 11-8 win. On September 6, 1933, exactly 74 years ago, the Phils had a 7-1 lead in the second game of a double header with the Cardinals at Sportsman's Park after seven and one half innings. Then the Cards scored seven runs in the next two innings for a double header sweep and an 8-7 win.
There are only 27 nine-inning games in recorded major-history in which a team has overcome a bigger deficit with just six outs remaining. The last time this occurred was June 30 of last season when the Reds beat the Indians, 9-8, after trailing by 7 runs in the middle of the eight. The biggest comeback was by the Philly A's, who trailed the Indians by eleven runs but scored 13 in the bottom of the eighth en route to a 17-15 win. It was Tom Glass's sole major-league win.
Here are all the comebacks after deficits of at least seven runs with two turns at bat remaining:
So was this the worst loss in the team's history? No, the Joe Carter and Todd Stottlemyre games in the '93 World Series were worse, and there's always the loss following a Burt Hooten meltdown on the mound in the 1977 NLCS. Is this their worst regular-season loss? I didn't live through the 1964 fiasco, so it's hard for me to say, but instead of putting themselves one series out of first and firmly in the wild card hunt while virtually knocking the then-floundering rival Braves out of both, the Phils hang onto the fringes of both races in a slightly better position than Atlanta. I would say that's pretty damn bad.
Highest ERA for a pitcher with at least 14 saves:
3K and Hall to Go
The big story was that Pedro Martinez returned from a season-long disabled list stint, pitched the Mets to a win, and increased their lead to five games over the rapidly decelerating Phillies. The small story was that Martinez became the fifteenth pitcher in major-league history to register three thousand strikeouts.
I'm left wondering whether the oft-injured Martinez has now reached a milestone that ensures his enshrinement in Cooperstown, if he was already assured a Hall of Fame plaque, or if he will ever be able to the milestones Hall voters look for to make it to the Hall.
Of the ten 3000-K pitchers eligible for the Hall, all but Bert Blyleven have made it and Blyleven is still on the cusp on the writers' ballot. Of the ineligibles, 300-G winners Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux are locks, but Randy Johnson and to a lesser degree Curt Schilling have strong cases. Here are all the 3000-K pitchers (all stats but Pedro's are through 2006):
Now, Pedro has some unusual numbers for a 3000-K pitcher. He Is tied for third least career wins for a pitcher in the year in which he notched his 3000th K:
He has the second least innings pitched:
He has the second least walks:
What can we expect for the rest of Martinez's career? I took a look at the 43 previous pitchers who had won 200 games by the age of 35 and averaged out their career form that point forward. On average they won 49 games and lost 39 in 127 games and 779 innings with 215 walks and 423 strikeouts. Here's Pedro's projected stats using those averages along with his current career stats:
Those are impressive numbers (especially the .661 winning percentage), but 256 wins don't necessarily add up to a plaque in Cooperstown. There are a good deal of pitchers in that range that don't get the Hall call. Twelve of the twenty-one pitchers with 250 to 299 career wins have been inducted into the Hall, and one (Randy Johnson) is not yet eligible. Those are a little better than 50-50 odds.
So what, if anything, separates Martinez from the pack? Or maybe the question is what links Martinez to the group that made it into the Hall?
I compared the 21 pitchers with 250-299 wins and looked at the most strikeouts in the group. Martinez's projected career numbers rank third and of the top six all but Blyleven (again) are in the Hall:
The top five eligible in the group with the best winning percentage are in the Hall as well. Martinez projects to second on this list. (Note that Spalding went in as an executive very likely would have made it as a player.):
So what's the verdict? A reasonable twilight to his career would make him pretty much a lock for the Hall. Right now, he stands a Sandy Koufax-like outlier with a compelling argument for the Hall. Three Cy Young Awards are hard to ignore. He also does extremely well using Bill James' Hall of Fame standards (from Baseball Reference):
Black Ink: Pitching - 55 (22) (Average HOFer ≈ 40)
Gray Ink: Pitching - 215 (31) (Average HOFer ≈ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching - 59.0 (18) (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching - 193.5 (23) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Of the ten similar pitchers to Martinez through age 34, six are already in the Hall (Grove, Ford, Gibson, Marichal, Bender, and Bunning), two will be (Clemens and Maddux) and two are longshots at best (Gooden and Mussina), which speaks to how well his career yet far fits the Hall of Fame mold. However, looking at similar pitchers for their entire career, just three (Koufaxsurprise!, Bender, and Chesbro) are in the Hall and just one other appears to have a decent shot of making it (Schilling; the rest are Caruthers, Gooden, Guidry, Leever, Mays, and Cone).
So Martinez appears to be a Hall of Famer but a good deal comes down to perception. You could make a strong argument for his being the best pitcher in the game from 1997 to 2003. Outside of that he was very good if oft-injured pitcher. Is that enough? Right now it looks like it. But in a game where Sammy Sosa with six hundred homers is not a lock for the Hall, nothing is certain. I'm not accusing Martinez of steroid use , but perception can always change and there are at least six years for the fickle voters' minds to change.
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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