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Look at What's in Store for Me, Heads Will Turn in Disbelief: Is Roy Halladay an Hall of Famer?

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A few days ago, jabalong brought up an interesting question in his fanpost "Halladay and the Hall" regarding the eventual likelihood of Roy Halladay making the Hall of Fame and Kevin Millar, himself, chimed in on his own candidacy.  In jabalong's post, he cited what is -- in my personal opinion -- a fairly ludicrous Richard Griffin piece in which Griffin intimated that Roy would need to average 20 wins per season for the next six years (though he puzzlingly said that he would be an hall-of-famer the year before that . . . so why not just have said 20 wins per season over the next five years?).

Now that I've given it a few days to think about, I'd like to expound on that a bit.  I think Halladay would actually have a shot at the hall of fame if his career ended today.  He certainly isn't a shoe-in, but there is actually a pretty strong case to be made.

He'd be behind the eight-ball regarding career length -- 10 seasons is what's required, so he'd be skinning his teeth there, however, let's look at some tests to see how he stacks up.


Black Ink/Grey Ink test
Bill James Black Ink: 44 (hof avg for pitchers is 40)
Bill James Grey Ink: 157 (hof avg for pitchers is 185)

First, we'll briefly discuss what this test is and why it is made.  The black ink test is basically a quick-and-dirty way to tell how good a player is relative to his peers.  Straight from baseballreference:

Named so because league leading numbers are traditionally represented with Boldface type. The definition for the test that I'm using here was written up in Bill James's The Politics of Glory, p. 65-67. The essential point is to measure how often a player led the league in a variety of "important" stats. This method penalizes more recent players as they have 14-16 teams per league, while the older players had just 8. To get a point you must lead the league in that category.


Pitching Statistics
  • Four Points for wins, earned run average or strikeouts
  • Three Points for innings pitched, win-loss percentage or saves
  • Two Points for complete games, lowest walks per 9 innings or lowest hits per 9 innings
  • One Point for appearances, starts or shutouts
  • Note that the method penalizes recent players and Halladay is still better than average thanks to leading the league in complete games six times (including four seasons running).  Halladay scores a bit lower than the average hall-of-famer in gray ink (which uses the same statistics, except you get credit for simply being top 10 in the league as opposed to having to lead it), but gray ink really favours pitchers from eight team leagues.  It was way easier to be in the top 10 of a category when there were between 30 and 40 qualifying starters per league (teams were going with four man rotations at that time as well as there being fewer teams overall), so gray ink is very biased.  Even still, Halladay is fairly close by gray ink standards.

    Pitching Wins: 169
    All-time Rank: 181st
    This is really the one place where Halladay is way behind.  It's incredibly difficult to make the Hall without a bare minimum of 200 wins, but it isn't quite impossible if you were in your prime and had some extenuating circumstance, which prevented you from continuing.  Players in the Hall with fewer wins than Halladay include:
     - Sandy Koufax -- 165 wins, the best pitcher of his time and The Left Arm of God, his career ended abruptly in the midst of his prime;
     - Monte Ward -- 164 wins, old timer who had a pretty significant career as an hitter as well as a pitcher;
     - Addie Joss -- 160 wins, didn't make the Hall until about long, long after his career was over, illness cut him down in the prime of his career (and life);
     - Dizzy Dean -- 150 wins, career cut short by injuries;
     - Candy Cummings -- 145 wins, but supposedly invented curveball;
     - Hoyt Wilhelm -- 143 wins, outside of a few seasons as a swingman, spent pretty much his whole career as a reliever;
    and the rest of the list is career relievers and some guy named Babe Ruth (?).
    Now, recall that the whole point of this excersize is to consider what would happen if Roy's career ended today and, since it wouldn't outside of some extenuating circumstance, I think it's fair to assume one.  As a side-note, it is interesting to see that two pitchers on the list (Koufax and Cummings) both hail from Brooklyn (represent!).

    Pitching Win-Loss%: .663
    All-time rank: 16th
    If there is one thing that unites all Sandy Koufax, Addie Joss, Dizzy Dean and Candy Cummings, it is that, although they had few wins, they made the most of their opportunities.  In winning-percentage, Koufax (.655), Joss (.623), Dean (.644) and Cummings (.607) all rank much better all-time than they do in raw wins.  Halladay actually outranks all of them.

    Raw ERA: 3.32
    All-time rank: 309th
    This is, of course, meaningless because Halladay played in the best division in baseball during a ridiculous offensive era.  More important is his ERA+, which compensates for park factors and compares him to other pitchers of his time.

    Adjusted ERA+: 136.
    All-time rank: 19th
    He is tied with all-timers like Pete Alexander, Randy Johnson and Christy Mathewson.  Now, of course Halladay does not yet stack up with those guys, but -- remember -- he doesn't need to.  If you needed to be Pete Alexander to make the Hall, there would be very few players in it.  Joss is ahead of Doc at 11th with 142.  Koufax and Dean are tied at 38th with 131.  Cummings is way lower (115, 195th all-time).  ERA+ shows, as we all know, that Roy Halladay is one of, if not the, best pitcher of his time.

    Wins Above Replacement (as calculated by Sean Smith's WAR Database): 54.3
    All-time rank: 62nd
    Halladay is practically tied with Koufax here (Koufax beats him out by one fifth of a win) and their careers are essentially the same length.  Dizzy Dean clocks in at 37.6 WAR (137th) and Addie Joss has 40.9 (126th).  In terms of WAR per season, Halladay is right up there with any of them.

    Strikeouts: 1714
    All-time rank: 106th
    Comparisons of strikeouts with old-timers like Joss (920 K, 522nd) and Dean (1163 K, 323rd) is unfair because players didn't strike out anywhere near as much as they do now.  Comparing just about anyone to Koufax (2396 K, 39th) is unfair, he was an absolute strikeout machine.  If he'd had the time, he'd certainly have had 3000 strikeouts and might have had 4000.

    20-win seasons: 3
    Twenty wins is a totally arbitrary and sort of stupid number, but it's one that the BBWAA seems to like, so we'll go with it.  Candy, Dizzy and Addie each had four and Sandy had three.  It is, of course, much more difficult to achieve 20-win seasons now, so I'd say that Halladay's three are pretty comparable.

    Seasons as the Best Pitcher in the League (as calculated by WAR) or Cy Young Awards: 2
    Dizzy and Sandy had two each, Candy and Addie didn't have any.  However, Roy was also 2nd five times.  Furthermore, if fangraphs WAR is used instead of Sean Smith's (fangraphs bases its estimate on FIP as opposed to actual runs scored, which -- in my opinion -- is a better method), Halladay has actually been worth the most wins in his league three times.  Assuming he gets the Cy Young Award this season, he'll have two of those as well, one fewer than Sandy (who also won an MVP and was second in MVP voting twice).  Provided that he ranks in at least the top five for Cy Young Award voting, it would the fifth time in a row.  Doc may be behind Koufax here but he is probably at least comparable to the others.  This may actually be the most important factor -- a fairly general rule is that hall-of-famers should have been the best player at their position for at least some time in their careers.  There's a strong case that Halladay has been the best pitcher in baseball since returning to the majors in 2001.

    Additional Factors:
    Add in the perfect game and no-hitter this season (Koufax had three no-hitters and one perfecto, Addie Joss also had one of each, but neither Dizzy Dean nor Candy Cummings ever pitched either) and I honestly think he has a pretty strong Hall case already.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, Doc has an excellent reputation as an hard worker and is considered by many to be a throwback to the greats of old because of his workhorse status (he has led his league in innings pitched four times and pitched more complete games than all but four Major League teams in 2010).  Sentimentality for this work ethic and -- perhaps, to an extent, his willingness to extend his contract at a price obviously below market value -- will likely earn him Hall support even beyond his sheer numbers.

    Griffin's implication that he would need to average 20 wins per season for the next five years is laughable.  It may be important for someone like Tom Glavine's candidacy to reach 300 wins but he isn't really comparable to Doc.  Over his entire career, Glavine had one season worth more than six wins and just four worth more than five.  Halladay has five seasons worth six wins and seven seasons worth five.  In reality, if Doc has another twenty win season I think he's likely in and if he has another three good seasons he should be a lock.  Even many of the people who get to watch Doc every fifth day still don't appreciate just how good he's been.

    Dizzy Dean is a pretty borderline Hall case and Candy Cummings is only in because of the curveball, but Addie Joss's spot is probably deserved.  Now, Halladay certainly doesn't go in if he walks away from baseball this offseason for seemingly no reason, but if there's some extenuating circumstance that forces him to retire, as there was for Koufax, I think there's at least a 25% chance or so he'd actually be enshrined.  He wouldn't be a first-ballot hall of famer, as I think he will be eventually, but he'd certainly get support.  To be honest, though I wasn't expecting it to be, his body of work is probably somewhere between Dizzy Dean's and Sandy Koufax's (and it might actually be closer to Koufax's than Dean's).  Now, depending on what's important to each person, that isn't necessarily Hall-worthy, but I think it probably is.

    Thanks to Surfer Blood's song "Swim" for today's post title.