Pitching Hall of Fame Formula Proposal
by Dan Coomer

In an internet chat room I was having a discussion on how peak value effects players chances of getting in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame (HoF) . There didn’t seem to be any great dynamic amongst position players who had short careers (less than 15 seasons) that this was happening. I then took the Lee Sinins' Baseball Sabermetric Encyclopedia (SBE) and started perusing pitchers. As I used it and compared it to HoFers and non-HoFers I began to see a formula that seemed to be “fairer” in selecting HoFers. I agree whole-heartedly that fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I thought I would share this formula with you. 

The specific metric I used (from the SBE) was Runs Saved Against Average (RSAA). I advise the reader that RSAA is not an end-all and be-all of pitching metrics. But, it is non-trivial and it is easy to understand. It is simply a calculated estimate of how many fewer runs a pitcher allowed versus the league average. In parenthesis after a pitcher’s name you may see three numbers in the format (xxx/zzz/yy). The first number is the pitcher’s career RSAA. The second number is his peak value RSAA (his best five consecutive years). The third number is the number of seasons the player pitched in. 

My methodology included listing every member of the HoF with his RSAA score. Then I looked at the historical record and determined how many RSAA a given pitcher had in his five best consecutive years. I also noted how many seasons a given pitcher participated in. As in the position players survey I separated the pitcher into two groups. If they had participated in 15 or more seasons they went in the career group. If not, they went into the peak value group. I then wrote down the three following rules: 

1)                  If you win 300 games you are in the HoF. I really wanted to bounce a couple of these guys out of the HoF, but that would have involved knocking out Nolan Ryan. Anyone up for that idea? So Mickey Welch, Pud Galvin, Early Wynn, and Don Sutton get a pass. As a part of this rule the need to retire and wait five years is waived. 

2)                  If you have a career RSAA of 250+ you are in the HoF. The reason for Rule One is that the five 300-game winners mentioned above would fail this test. The player would have to retire and wait five years to be enshrined. 

3)                  If you played less than 15 seasons and your RSAA is 200+ and your peak value is 150+ and you played after 1900 then you are in the HoF. The player would have to retire and wait five years to be enshrined. 

I really don’t like rule one, but anything else I came up with would drop Nolan Ryan. I cannot leave the career strikeouts leader and the career no-hit leader out of the HoF. I guess I could have written the rule to demand at least a career RSAA of 200, which would have gotten rid of Welch, Galvin, Wynn, and Sutton. 

I really like rule 2. Of the 36 retired pitchers who have 250+ RSAA, 33 of them are already in the HoF. We just need to add Bert Blyleven, Tommy Bridges, and Jack Stivetts. Seems good to me. 

Rule three has four components. I just believe to be admitted on the Peak Value rule you need to have a shorter career. I know it means two pitchers can have the total RSAA and the same Peak Value and one can be in the HoF and one not. If you are going to play longer you have to be more productive. Since you want to be elected on peak value you must have a good peak. 150+ RSAA seemed right to me. I added the 200+ RSAA career component to avoid guys who have great peaks but sucked the rest of their careers. The 19th century exclusion was simply because a lot of guys from the era would have made my HoF under this rule. It just seemed like the right thing to do. 

Okay who is in under these rules? 

Rule One requires the election of Cy Young (813/339/22), Kid Nichols (678/338/15), Lefty Grove (668/310/17), Walter Johnson (643/292/21), Roger Clemens (613/224/21), Greg Maddux (540/271/19), Pete Alexander (373/197/20), John Clarkson (508/346/12), Christy Mathewson (405/214/17), Tom Seaver (404/191/20), Tim Keefe (377/249/14), Warren Spahn (319/130/21), Steve Carlton (282/122/24), Phil Niekro (322/127/22), Gaylord Perry (317/158/22), Eddie Plank (278/101/17), Old Hoss Radbourn (254/252/11), Nolan Ryan (205/69/27), Mickey Welch (179/155/13), Pud Galvin (147/115/14), Don Sutton (137/105/23) and Early Wynn (105/109/23). That’s 22 pitchers into the HoF.

Rule two requires the election of (in descending order of RSAA) Amos Rusie (370/315/10), Carl Hubbell (355/219/16), Bob Gibson (350/193/17), Bert Blyleven (344/164/22), Whitey Ford (321/146/16), Jim Palmer (314/160/19), Hal Newhouser (309/238/17), Tommy Bridges (301/194/16), Mordecai (Three Finger) Brown (295/191/14), Ted Lyons (286/99/21), Stan Coveleski (282/187/14), Hoyt Wilhelm (282/117/21), Bob Feller (279/174/18), Fergie Jenkins (271/165/19), Jack Stivetts (268/197/11), Ed Walsh (256/191/14), Clark Griffith (255/191/20), Rube Waddell (254/178/13), Juan Marichal (252/179/16), Dazzy Vance (251/163/16), and Red Faber (250/153/20). All of these pitchers are currently in the HoF, except for Blyleven, Bridges, and Stivetts. That’s another 21 guys into my HoF. Clark Griffth is already in the HoF as an executive/pioneer. 

Rule Three (the Peak Value Rule) would admit Lefty Gomez (241/192/14), Urban Shocker (239/176/13), Joe McGinnity (238/188/10), Sandy Koufax (220/194/12), and Dizzy Dean (205/182/12). Only Shocker is not in the HoF. Overall that puts 48 pitchers in to my  HoF, including four guys who weren’t there before and one guy whom wasn’t listed as a pitcher. I think we can agree that the five pitchers I have added are defensible selections. You may not agree with them, but at least they aren’t Rube Marquard or Jesse Haines. 

Now we come to the pitchers that I would exclude. That is a list of 17 of enshrinees that I would not include. They are, in descending order of career RCAA, with their career RSAA, peak RSAA and number of seasons, as follows: 

Don Drysdale (229/130/14), Robin Roberts (220/183/19), Dennis Eckersley (208/112/24), Jim Bunning (205/131/17), Addie Joss (205/140/9), Vic Willis (194/157/13), Waite Hoyt (187/96/21), Bob Lemon (180/115/13), Red Ruffing (170/155/22), Burleigh Grimes (129/88/19), Jesse Haines (120/56/19), Chief Bender (114/94/16), Rollie Fingers (103/51/17), Jack Chesbro (89/119/11), Herb Pennock (74/133/22), Catfish Hunter (56/118/15), and Rube Marquard (46/53/18). I do feel bad about Willis, and maybe Roberts. The Eckersley exclusion may require a tweak to somehow include “closers” or none of those guys will ever get in. Other than that I don’t have a problem with who gets dropped. 

I then tested my formula against active pitchers not in under the 300 victories rule to see who is on pace to make it. The pitchers who are on pace for the HoF with their RSAA’s above 250+ are Randy Johnson (511/270/17), Pedro Martinez (471/289/13), Curt Schilling (327/181/17), Kevin Brown (321/211/18), Tom Glavine (294/145/18), and Mike Mussina (291/139/14). No additional active pitchers qualify under the Peak Value rule. Now you have to admit, whether you think all these guys are HoFers or not, there is not a stiff amongst them. 

John Smoltz (239/144/16) has a good shot at reaching the 250 plateau next year. Relievers have very little chance unless they revert to the ways of Hoyt Wilhelm and accumulate some innings. No other starting pitcher is within 75 RSAA of qualification. The only reliever with any chance is Mariano Rivera (175/110/10). He can’t make it on peak value, but with four more seasons like the one he just had he can get in, but he will be 35 next season. 

My formula has given a pitcher three ways to get in the HoF: 

1)      Have a long career and pitch for good teams (i.e. “win” games) 

2)      Have a long career and pitch well. 

3)      Have a not so long career and pitch really well.

What do you think?

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