There is an online poll at CNN/SI as to Darryl Kile's qualifications as a Hall of Famer. 13.2% polled responded that yes, Kile is deserving of enshrinement in Cooperstown. That's about 1 in seven or eight (actually 7.57 bar for you math students). Now, imagine that you are at a ballgame, and you stretch your hands out and flail them about wildly-C'mon, it's fun. One of the outraged patrons whom you would smack with your outstretched limbs before being escorted out in a padded bullpen car would think that Darryl Kile was a Hall of Famer. And you would be the one on the way to bughouse!
I thought it was a given that Kile was clearly not a Hall-of-Fame caliber player, and his presence on the ballot largely procedural and ceremonial. Don't get me wrong Kile was a fine pitcher and, by all accounts, a very fine individual, and his death was tragic. But there is no reasonable argument that could be made for Kile going into the Hall even if he had been able to finish career. This isn't tiddledywinks, people! This is Cooperstown! Retire his number in St. Louis, Colorado, and Houston if you want. Incorporate his number 57 into the Cardinals cap design. But don't make Kile into the new Ross Youngs.
First Kile wasn't Lyman Bostock. He was 33 this season. Let's say that he were able to finish this season and-let's be generous-were to play 5 more years at his current level. He pitched 11 more or less complete seasons prior to 2002, totally 128 wins, 115 losses, a nice .527 winning percentage, and a 4.14 ERA (incidentally a 1.41 WHIP, walks plus hits per innings pitched, and a 1.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio). I know that ERA includes some years in Colorado, but I'm not going to be so lenient as to lower it since he had some 4.00+ years in Houston and has been hovering around (though below) 4.00 in St. Louis. That's an average of 12-10 (actually 11.6 to 10.5 but why be picky) with 147 strikeouts in 189 innings. He was 5-4 this year before his death. Let's add a 7-6 record to his 2002 stats and then five 12-10 seasons. That would be a 67-56 record for his missed years, giving him a 200-175 career record. That's nice but is it Hall-worthy?
I found all of the Hall of Fame pitchers who were elected based on their major-league experience (regrets to Satchel Paige) and had fewer than 250 wins. There were 27. I then listed their career wins, losses, winning percent, ERA, Adjusted ERA (adjusted for park and league average), their peak adjusted ERA, and peak win total. Here's what I got (with Kile) [Thanks to Sean Leahman's database and Baseball-Reference.com's stats]:
Now that's an extremely mixed bag: the two HoF relievers, special exceptions with high peaks but short careers like Sandy Koufax, and some of the well-publicized dregs of the Hall.
Now, let's remove the players with adjusted ERA's 10% or better than the league average (>=110) or with winning percentages over .575. Those are pitchers that are clearly superior to Kile. We are left with three HoF pitchers:
FirstName LastName W L PCT ERA Adj Peak Peak
ERA Adj ERA W
Jesse Haines 210 158 .571 3.64 108 145 24
Catfish Hunter 224 166 .574 3.26 104 141 25
Darryl Kile (proj) 200 175 .533 4.14 103 155 20
Rube Marquard 201 177 .532 3.08 103 169 26
Never mind that these three pitchers are the ones most often pointed to when you hear heated calls to rectify the mistakes made in past Hall elections. Hunter is still discernible better than Kile: 24 more career wins, a winning percentage about 40 points higher, a peak win total that's five wins better. Haines gets an edge with 10 wins, a 5% better adjusted ERA, and nearly 40 points in winning percentage. Marquad and the projected Kile are awfully close. However, Marquad had a better peak and had an ERA that is more than a run lower. I know that these are different eras but if Kile's ERA looks comparable to Marquad's because they are both 3% better than the adjusted league average then I'm a monkey's uncle. Why? Because standard deviations get smaller as the average ERA gets smaller. If the league average ERA were 1.00 and someone has a 0.97 that has to be better than a 4.85 ERA in a league with a 5.00 average. Consider that the league leader is around 0.70 in the first case and around 2.80 in the second.
So Kile cannot even be said to be comparable to the worst Hall of Fame pitcher even if we extend his career very leniently. If you look at the 10 most similar pitchers to him, you see what kind of career he had:
Todd Stottlemyre (966)
Ron Darling (962)
Mike Krukow (945)
Mark Gubicza (940)
Mike Boddicker (938)
Ken Hill (936)
Tim Belcher (934)
Floyd Bannister (931)
Dan Petry (930)
Dick Ruthven (929)
Kile was a good #2 or 3 pitcher in his best years and a rotation filler in his bad, but clearly not a Hall-of-Famer.
And just a word regarding his legacy. The only way Kile makes it into the Hall is if the voters radically change the established standards to allow him in. Do we want that to be Kile's legacy? Is that what his children want to hear about the rest of their lives?