When it comes to Baseball Hall of Fame voting, there’s not much that can be agreed upon, even among those tasked with voting on new candidates.
Some think no players connected to performance-enhancing drugs should be elected. Others think that baseball willingly looked the other way on the Steroid Era, and can’t imagine a Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez, among others. And there’s even a crowd that draws a line in the middle, saying that Bonds and Clemens should be elected to the Hall of Fame despite very credible connections to performance-enhancing drugs, but Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez shouldn’t because they were actually suspended by the league for using banned substances.
The steroid issue is far from the only thing those that vote on and/or analyze the Hall of Fame ballot struggle to agree on. The mixed reaction to my piece advocating for Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame case Monday showed that. But if we can agree on one thing, it should be this: Roy Halladay, on the ballot for the first time in 2019, should be voted into Cooperstown.
Halladay, who spent the final four seasons of his career in Philadelphia, finished his career with a 3.38 ERA, a 3.39 FIP and a 64.3 bWAR across 2,749.1 innings. He is one of six pitchers in baseball history to have won a Cy Young Award in both leagues – he won won with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003 and the Phillies in 2010 – with three of the other five who have that distinction in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The other two? Clemens – who statistically is one of the five best pitchers of all-time, but hasn’t gained induction because of his connections to performance-enhancing drugs – and Max Scherzer, who is still active and is setting himself up nicely for a chance at the Hall of Fame.
The 1995 first-round pick pitched over 200 innings eight times in his career, and though he hasn’t pitched in a game since 2013, Ryan M. Spaeder points out that Halladay still leads baseball in complete games since 2009. He was the definition of a workhorse, and was dominant despite spending 12 of his 16 years in the American League East, with at least a portion of that coming during the Steroid Era, a notoriously tough time to be a pitcher.
Halladay’s case isn’t perfect, however.
“Doc” finished his career with “just” 203 wins, a number that some traditional voters may scoff at. Curt Schilling’s 216 career wins are one of the things that those who have elected not to vote for Schilling regularly cite. Spaeder does also note that Halladay had 88 career no-win quality starts, with an 0-38 record and 2.59 ERA in those 88 starts. If anything, that’s indicative of Halladay spending the bulk of his career playing for a Blue Jays team that regularly faced Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Still, some voters will look at Halladay’s career wins total and think he falls a bit short. With that said, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom just received 29 of 30 first place votes to win the National League Cy Young Award, despite winning just 10 games. Times have changed, wins are no longer valued as much when evaluating starting pitchers because what type of run support they get is largely out of their control (and completely out of their control in the American League).
Though he had a peak that lasted a decade, Halladay did retire after his age-36 season, a relatively young age for a Hall of Fame starting pitcher’s career to be concluded at. That partially explains why his wins total is a bit lower than most serious Hall of Fame candidates. His 63.4 bWAR is lower than the average Hall of Fame starting pitcher’s mark of 73.4. It falls well short of the career totals of Schilling and Mike Mussina, two pitchers who remained effective into their late-30s, but have struggled to gain traction in their quest to be elected to the Hall of Fame. At the same time, Halladay has a WAR7 and JAWS that are right in line with the average Hall of Fame starting pitcher. And he had a much better reputation as a person than either Schilling or Mussina do. Right or wrong, that does factor in for a portion of voters. Halladay’s career totals in many categories will also still look better than many pitchers whose careers overlapped with his: Scherzer, Kevin Brown, David Cone, Zack Greinke, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Tim Hudson and Roy Oswalt, among others.
Halladay will draw an interesting coalition of voters that should help to cancel out any possible shortcomings his resume may have.
Older voters will love that he won multiple Cy Young Awards, while finishing in the top five of Cy Young Award voting seven times. They’ll love that he was one of the last true workhorse pitchers in baseball, one that led the league in complete games seven different times.
More analytically inclined voters will look at WAR7, JAWS, FIP and ERA+, all of which paint Halladay as someone that, at worst, is a fringe Hall of Famer.
The best thing that a Hall of Fame candidate can have is a few iconic moments that immediately come to a voter’s mind when they are filling out their ballots. While Halladay rather quietly dominated baseball’s toughest division in Toronto during the 2000s, Philadelphia truly was, as he said in his retirement press conference, the “icing on the cake.” On May 29, 2010, Halladay threw a perfect game against the then Florida Marlins. On Oct. 6, 2010, in the first postseason start of his career, Halladay threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, just the second no-hitter in playoff history. If Jack Morris, who had a resume that pales in comparison to Halladay’s, rode his 1991 World Series Game 7 complete game into Cooperstown, Halladay’s 2010 season should break any ties in the minds of voters.
Whether Halladay is elected in his first year on the ballot or not remains to be seen. Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman are both recent examples of players that eventually were easily elected to the Hall of Fame, but didn’t get in during their first year of eligibility. Some voters believe first-ballot inductions should be reserved for the greatest of the great, players like Ken Griffey Jr. and Mariano Rivera. Others would argue that you’re either a Hall of Famer or you’re not, and it’s petty not to vote for someone in their first year on the ballot if you know that you’ll eventually vote for them. In any event, it feels like a safe assumption that Halladay will eventually have a plaque in Cooperstown, and though he’ll be wearing a Blue Jays cap, his first two seasons in Philadelphia helped to cement his legacy as an all-time great.
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