Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

RIP Roy Halliday: a posthumous Hall of Famer?


Halladay was always a tough out for the Nats; RIP. Photo via

Halladay was always a tough out for the Nats; RIP. Photo via

I have the mlb app with notifications turned on, so I got the news as soon as it was confirmed that Roy Halladay was in the plane.  It was shocking indeed.  Hate to see something like this.

My Halladay memories: The best seats I ever had at a Nats game were for a Nats-Philadelphia game in late 2008 with Halladay starting.  I sprung for those diamond seats, 2nd row behind the plate.  It was an awesome experience, and you just don’t really get a sense for how hard these guys throw until you’re *that* close.  I also remember vividly a game that I’m sure some of you also remember: Halladay going for a complete game against us in 2011 but running into trouble in the 9th only to strike out both Matt Stairs and Ivan Rodriguez looking  … and neither guy moved their bat off their shoulder.

I’ve begun thinking about his legacy, as one is apt to do in times like this: Halladay was an incredibly dominant pitcher for a good stretch of his career, but he was essentially washed up at 34 and out of the game at 36, didn’t have the counting numbers some older voters want, and may have some difficulties getting elected.

However, I wonder if his untimely death affects (to the positive) his Hall of Fame candidacy.  It sucks that we’re talking about that as a possible posthumous honor, but he definitely had an interesting case.  From 2003 to 2011 he was basically in the conversation year after year of being the best pitcher in the game (2 Cy Youngs, 5 other times named in top 5, and 8 all-star appearances).  But he only played 15 full seasons, 6 of which were cut short due to injury or youth, and he was done by age 36.  200 wins, but no where near 3000Ks.  One seminal post-season moment (his 2010 NLDS no-hitter), but not a ton of post-season experience other wise (just 5 starts for Philly across 2010-11).
65.6 career bWAR, 65.2 career fWAR, which puts him right in the areas where he should be heavily considered (some hall of fame pitchers right in that same range include Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Bob Feller, Juan Marichal, Dennis Eckersley, etc).   He’s 38th all-time in fWAR for Pitchers, 41st for bWAR.  And most every pitcher ranked above him on these lists is already in the HoFame (or should be).
The thing is, there’s starters above him on these lists who are struggling to get elected.  Consider these names who are ranked above Halladay but who are not yet elected):
Roger Clemens (for obvious reasons)
Mike Mussina: longer career, more Wins, more Ks
Curt Schilling; whatever you think of his post-career politics, he was a dominant pitcher for a long time who probably could have had 3 Cy Young awards
Kevin Brown: criminally under-appreciated long time dominant starter
Mussina and Schilling are the ones that stick out for me; if those two guys can’t get in, can Halladay?
Most of the old grizzled voters hate having career value conversations couched around WAR (probably because they don’t understand it).  But because we’re likely never seeing 300 wins again i wonder if he might be the kind of candidate where they look past his macro numbers and look at the fact that for nearly a decade he was the #1 or #2 guy in the league.  And get some sentimental votes at the same time.
For me?  I’m a big Hall kind of guy, so I think all these guys above Halladay need to be in the Hall of Fame.  I think Halladay does too; he passes the eye test and the smell test, if not the career stat-gathering test.

26 Responses to 'RIP Roy Halliday: a posthumous Hall of Famer?'

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  1. I’m much less interested in the Hall than lots of fans. I don’t object to it and went there as a kid, but I don’t get riled up one way or the other too much.

    With that disclaimer, I’d probably put Halladay in but it isn’t a statistical argument. It felt like he was a legit contender for best pitcher in baseball for about 10 years and he had a bunch of ‘big’ moments. That’s enough for me, I don’t need them to hang around for extra years as a marginal guy just to pick up counting stats. Also, there is going to need to be a readjustment in the minds of voters to account for the 21st century player, pitchers especially. They just aren’t going to have the counting stats or their earlier peers. Halladay will be a good test case.

    Hale for bench coach. I don’t know much about him. Seems like he has a lot of baseball knowledge, so if he isn’t a jerk it looks like a good hire. Pitching coach the only significant one left.

    When do they announce Max’s CYA?


    8 Nov 17 at 7:16 pm

  2. Couldn’t have a staff without a former D-Back, right?

    The Halladay passing is very sad. I’ll expound on the HoF thoughts when I have a chance. I think Wally hit on one of the key points, though: there was a period when he was thought of as the best pitcher in the game. That’s sort of a mark against Schilling, Mussina, and Brown, none of whom won CYAs.

    Another question to ponder is what is going to be the new benchmark for wins in an era when pitchers are getting fewer starts and aging more normally? Here’s an interesting stat: Pedro Martinez’s last good year was his age-33 season, at the end of which he had 192 wins. He petered out in a normal fashion and ended up with 219. There are many, many Red Sox fans who will tell you that Clemens was done when he left Boston at the end of his age-33 season. At that point, he had 192 wins, exactly the same as Pedro at that age. But as we know, he didn’t exactly have a “normal” regression after that.

    Anyway, Halladay ended up 203 wins, and his last really good season was his age-34 year.


    8 Nov 17 at 11:15 pm

  3. OK, let’s do a deeper dive here. I’ll include some of the names under discussion, plus the continuing specter of Jack Morris, who is on the 2018 ballot for the Modern Baseball Era Committee for backdoor entry:

    Halladay: .659 win%; 3.38 ERA; 3.39 FIP; 131 ERA+; 1.178 WHIP

    Schilling: .597 win%; 3.46 ERA; 3.23 FIP; 127 ERA+; 1.137 WHIP

    Mussina: .638 win%; 3.68 ERA; 3.57 FIP; 123 ERA+; 1.192 WHIP

    Clemens: .658 win%; 3.12 ERA; 3.09 FIP; 143 ERA+; 1.173 WHIP

    Brown: .594 win%; 3.28 ERA; 3.33 FIP; 127 ERA+; 1.222 WHIP

    Morris: .577 win%; 3.90 ERA; 3.94 FIP; 105 ERA+; 1.296 WHIP

    Pettitte: .626 win%; 3.85 ERA; 3.74 FIP; 117 ERA+; 1.351 WHIP

    Scherzer: .653 win%; 3.30 ERA; 3.25 FIP; 127 ERA+; 1.119 WHIP

    Kershaw: .692 win%; 2.36 ERA; 2.60 FIP; 161 ERA+; 1.002 WHIP

    Sortable stats for guys on the ballot through 2019:


    9 Nov 17 at 8:00 am

  4. Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit here:

    — Kershaw blows away everyone, even Clemens, although he’ll probably have some regression of his numbers in his 30s.

    — Clemens is a little better than everyone else in most categories, but still not that far ahead of Halladay and Schilling . . . and Scherzer. Clemens has 6 CYAs and 1 MVP, though, a clear indication that he was one of the dominant players of his time.

    — Morris deserves no further discussion. He’s not in this class of player at all, not even with Pettitte, who I expect to get some Morris-like “big-game pitcher” support.

    From there on it gets interesting. I have included winning percentage as a key stat instead of wins, as I think that’s going to be a way to differentiate between guys with 270 wins (Mussina) and guys with 203 (Halladay). By the stats I have here, I would have Halladay slightly ahead of Schilling and Mussina (and Scherzer right now neck and neck with Halladay). And yes, Brown’s stats are pretty darn close to Schilling’s, aren’t they?

    When you get to splitting hairs this closely, I think CYAs come into play to show whether a player really was at the top level at some point. Halladay and Scherzer have two CYAs (with Scherzer having a possible third one this year). Schilling, Mussina, and Brown have none. Scherzer is also going to have a big K total; Halladay doesn’t.


    9 Nov 17 at 8:20 am

  5. KW

    9 Nov 17 at 8:47 am

  6. Were there ever rumors about whether Schilling was juiced? It’s hard to look at his late-career resurgence and not wonder. We know there was juice in that AZ clubhouse (our ol’ buddy Matt Williams).

    On the flip side of juicing, Scherzer is entering his age-33 season. That age was the last good year for Pedro; age-34 was Halladay’s. Makes we wonder/worry whether Max is going to hit a wall in a year or two.


    9 Nov 17 at 9:23 am

  7. KW, that is indeed something I’ve been thinking about Max. Halladay and Mussina are interesting to compare here: Halladay fell off a cliff (I believe it was injury related; and one key to the Nats being able to pass the Phillies in 2012 without much trouble was the fact that Halladay was no longer Halladay that year) whereas Mussina was a long, slow decline. There’s nothing in Max’s performance to suggest a steep decline is coming soon, so if a steep decline is imminent, it will almost certainly have to be injury related. I’m definitely hoping that Max follows the Mussina progression, and that it doesn’t start in earnest until after next year.

    As for the HOF, Kershaw, Mussina, Schilling, and Halladay all clearly belong in my book (and in roughly that order). Morris clearly does not, and Clemens is a special case. In terms of the HOF, it probably shouldn’t matter if a pitcher acquires more counting stats by being somewhere between “above average” and “good” for a number of years after the peak is over. But, comparing Mussina to Halladay in terms of thinking about Scherzer, it’s absolutely true that Mussina’s decline was much more valuable to his team’s than Halladay’s.

    Anyway, RIP Roy.


    9 Nov 17 at 10:02 am

  8. Max Hitting a wall concern: i’m not as concerned even given his age. four main reasons:

    1) lack of MLB mileage on his arm. through age 32 season he has 1897 innings. by way of comparison Sabathia had 2775 innings through his age 32 year. That’s 878 more innings, more than four full seasons more. That’s astounding. In other words, I wouldn’t expect to see Scherzer drop off like Sabathia did in his age 32 season until he’s nearly 37.
    2) Moving to the NL: we all know the NL lets starters get “easy” outs against pitchers, but studies have shown that it makes about a half an ERA point of difference in our current game, and that the AL generally speaking has had better lineups and the DH (though this has become far more even in the last couple of years).
    3) His mechanics and health history; he’s not an over the top thrower so he’s not stressing his shoulder like most guys. Prior to 2017 he hadn’t *ever* missed a start as far as I can tell … and his 2017 injury was not arm related.
    4) his control: the biggest concern for power pitchers as they age is determining whether or not they can adjust from blowing the ball by guys in the upper 90s to being able to succeed in the lower-mid 90s range. I think Scherzer will be fine simply based on his low walk rates. Clearly he has command and control, so as he ages he should retain these skills and be able to continue to succeed.

    Todd Boss

    9 Nov 17 at 10:14 am

  9. KW: i’m a big hall person … and i’m not necessarily wedded to an entirely stats-driven conversation. So for me every single guy you just highlighted is in. Yes, even Morris and Pettite, who may not be awesome statistical cases but still rate better than more than a few current Hall of Fame pitchers.

    Catfish Hunter? Red Ruffing? Ted Lyons? Bruce Sutter?? Even Dennis Eckersly’s statistical case is troublesome once you look at his Starter/Reliever splits; he “only” had a 2.85 ERA as a reliever … compare that to Mariano Rivera’s 2.21 career relief figure.

    Not to mention Bert Blyleven, who basically got in because he was a rubber armed physical specimen able to throw nearly 5,000 career innings and accumulate strikeouts at a 6.7 K/9 rate in order to pile up 3700 for his career … meanwhile he made exactly two all star teams and never sniffed a Cy Young award in 22 seasons; his entire candidacy is hindsight is 20/20 pushing of the narrative that he was some how awesome while writers and analysts of the day knew he was just a mediocre guy with a good curveball). A 6.7 career K/9 rate ranks Blyleven 182nd in the history of the game … right ahead of Bruce Chen and right behind Doug Davis; not exactly names you associate with strikeout dominance.

    Todd Boss

    9 Nov 17 at 10:33 am

  10. Two points re HOF: (1) you have to adjust stats for eras and ballparks. Blyleven’s K rate looks much worse when we include guys pitching in the current high-K era. His K rate in the 70s/80s was elite for that era; (2) I would totally discount awards like MVP, CYA, etc. in HOF arguments because they’re exceptionally poor measurement tools. They measure public opinion as much as they measure performance (the same way pitcher wins measure a team’s offensive performance as much as the pitcher’s performance). Not only that, these awards penalize guys that played for bad teams, both in terms of winning the award and in terms of how high they finish. This is particularly pernicious in the pre-free agency era where a guy could be stuck on a bad team for his whole career. It’s especially bad to use award voting when we have other MUCH better tools to use in evaluating player performance (i.e., a player’s Fangraphs page). And finally, award voters often do a poor job. Bill James addresses this in the context of Roger Maris here:

    I’m sympathetic to the argument that “so and so was a HOFer because he was the best 2B of his era” or “so and so was not a HOFer because he just played for a long time and was never an upper echelon player.” And I understand wanting to end-of-season awards as evidence for one’s case. I just think it’s BAD evidence.


    9 Nov 17 at 10:45 am

  11. Kershaw is almost four years younger than Max but has thrown more MLB innings, 1,935 to 1,897. I dug a little deeper, including minor-league and postseason IP and Max’s college numbers, which puts Max ahead 2,364.2 to 2,281, less than half a season’s worth of difference. Kershaw is already struggling to stay healthy. Max hasn’t . . . yet . . . knock wood . . .


    9 Nov 17 at 11:17 am

  12. Derek, I certainly understand not trusting voted-upon awards. By most metrics, Rendon just got screwed out of a Gold Glove by a guy who makes more SportsCenter plays of the day. Rendon just makes it look too easy.

    By the same token, when the stats are close, I do understand the urge to use awards as sort of a tiebreaker, or at least as an indication of how good a player was in relation to his peers. Yeah, something like ERA+ for the season is probably a better measure, but it’s not as convenient. On the flip side, though, it’s hard to dock Schilling for not winning a CYA when he finished second three times.

    For a starter, an MVP award does matter, as it rarely happens. It has only happened twice in the 2000s. It’s not an HOF lock (see Vida Blue and Denny McLain), but it’s a plus if it’s not a total outlier season.


    9 Nov 17 at 11:29 am

  13. Big Hall vs. Small Hall — here is the 2018 Backdoor ballot:

    First of all, Marvin Miller should be a mortal lock, and it’s a travesty that they didn’t enshrine him while he was alive. Of the rest, most were “stars,” with some “superstars” at their peak. I could see some cases here, particularly guys like Murphy and maybe even Simmons. But if you let them in, you’re going to have to let in guys like McGriff, Guerrero, and Walker, and the Big Hall is going to get bigger and bigger all the time. Murphy’s career OPS was only .815; Parker’s was .810.

    There are no easy answers. Anyone can find several guys already in the Hall who weren’t as good as any of the players just named.


    9 Nov 17 at 11:42 am

  14. Here are interesting tools for framing arguments. BR has sortable stats for all the guys in the HOF for both hitter and pitchers:


    9 Nov 17 at 11:44 am

  15. KW

    9 Nov 17 at 3:01 pm

  16. Lilliquist and Bogar join the staff. They essentially swap Lilliquist for Maddux with cards. Rizzo has certainly surrounded Martinez with experienced guys. If they mesh well, it should be a good staff.

    Don’t know that much about Lilliquist as pitching coach, and he probably isn’t the ‘new best thing’, but I think its a solid choice. Cards are a good organization. I don’t know why they decided to move on from him, but he was there for a long time.


    9 Nov 17 at 4:17 pm

  17. Hall of Fame should remember those who were…. Famous right? Its a museum that captures the state of the game at the time it was played.

    Was Bert Blyleven a “famous” transcendant pitcher of his era? Not by a long shot. For reasons not entirely his fault. He was a complete accumulator who got his HoF spot by virtue of the fact that he was one of the top 10 players all time in innings pitched.

    Was Jack Morris a transcendant pitcher of his era? More so by “fame” but less by his career stats. Like it or not, he made a ton more all star games. He was in the public eye. That should count for something, even if we know more now than we did back then.

    I guess this is the essense of my irritation with those who fought so hard for a mediocre pitcher to be inducted but then blew a gasket when a guy who made 15 straight opening day starts or whatever but who had only slightly better career stats than Catfish Hunter was heavily considered for the hall.

    Why can’t both be there?

    Todd Boss

    9 Nov 17 at 4:47 pm

  18. I also take this into account a little bit. It’s why I added that doc had his share of ‘big’ moments.


    9 Nov 17 at 6:03 pm

  19. I’m kind of a Medium Hall guy, with a foot in both camps. And I do think “Fame” does need to be taken into account if you’re going to include in on the front of the building.

    (I’ll pause here to note the curiosity that the baseball HOF debates outpace those of the other HOFs combined!)

    There’s no easy answer, all the more so because the old Veteran’s Committee let in a bunch of marginal and sub-marginal guys a long time ago. That makes it easy to make lists of guys who are worse than your guy. The pendulum has now swung, however, to the point that for the most part, only the super-elite get in.

    On the current Backdoor ballot (link above), I see four guys who were legitimately “stars” in their times: Garvey, Mattingly, Murphy, and Parker. They were on the magazines, guides, and whatnot, some of THE faces of the game. Garvey, however, was never really an elite player. His highest bWAR ever was 5.1, his highest OPS+ was 130. He was an above-average player on a good team for a long time, plus he was good-looking and played a couple of miles from Hollywood. But he wasn’t really great. So no to Garvey.

    No to Mattingly as well, who was an elite player, but only for three to five seasons. He only played 14 overall and was close to league-average by his 30s.

    Murphy and Parker have better cases. They had longer periods at an elite level and accumulated very good (but not top-tier) career stats. As noted above, though, if they’re in, then so are McGriff, Guerrero, Walker, Kent, Berkman, etc. I don’t have a problem with that. Some people do.

    Of the pitchers whose stats I listed, I’d have all but Morris and Pettitte. Morris to me is another Blyleven, albeit with more postseason juice. And I’d really, really have a problem with people making Morris’s case over guys like Brown.


    10 Nov 17 at 10:53 am

  20. If I’m ranking the cases of the pitchers I listed above, I’d start with Kershaw as a mortal lock, even if his injuries and high innings end up bumping him out of the game with wins in the low 200s.

    The Clemens case is what it is. As I noted, he’d have a case even if you declared him done at 33 with a normal regression from then, similar to Pedro’s. (Bonds would have still been around 500 HRs without the juice; McGwire and Sosa would not have.)

    I didn’t include Verlander in the starters I profiled above but probably should have. He’s probably going to come up for Hall membership a year or two before Max. If he’s in, then Max is in. In nearly all the stats I listed above, Max is slightly better.

    I would have Halladay a hair above Scherzer and Verlander, and those two ahead of Mussina and Schilling, who I’d have ranked in that order. But I think it may take Halladay getting in to open the door for someone like Schilling, who has a similar statistical case. That’s leaving out Schilling’s personality and politics, of course, which aren’t doing him any favors.


    10 Nov 17 at 11:17 am

  21. Scherzer: .653 win%; 3.30 ERA; 3.25 FIP; 127 ERA+; 1.119 WHIP

    Verlander: .623 win%; 3.46 ERA; 3.47 FIP; 124 ERA+; 1.184 WHIP

    I’ll have to admit, I always thought of Verlander as the Tigers’ “ace,” but Max is better in every stat here. He’s likely to end up with more Ks, a much higher K/9, and more CYAs as well. Wins may end up being close, as Verlander is just two years older and has 47 more wins. He also has an MVP . . . and now a ring. We’re planning on Max getting two or three of those, though! Verlander seems to be into his decline; Max isn’t.

    Anyway, I think they’re both “Hall of Famers.” I’m just surprised to see that Max might be better.


    10 Nov 17 at 11:25 am

  22. Max’s case has been helped enormously by his performance with the Nats. Three of his top 4 seasons have been here. Whether he makes it or not will likely hinge on the next couple of years, and also winning this CYA. If he holds serve or performs even 90% of his last three years, he’s in. If he suffers a major injury or huge fall off, it’s going to be tough.

    He’s at 43 WAR and I’d say he needs to get to 55 or greater. That total would look a little low comparatively but he’d have the three CYAs


    10 Nov 17 at 1:10 pm

  23. If Max wins a 3rd Cy Young, he’s a lock; nobody has ever won more than 2 major awards (MVPs Cy Youngs) without getting elected. Well … except for Bonds/Clemens of course. But they don’t count.

    And then there’s this: he’s at 2149 Ks … and has averaged 270 over the past several seasons. That’s a bit more than 3 full seasons worth of Ks. Point is … he’s very likely to also hit 3,000 punch outs save some debilitating injury.

    so 3 Cys plus 3,000 punchouts and we’re not talking if but when he’s elected, and which hat he’s wearing.

    Todd Boss

    10 Nov 17 at 1:47 pm

  24. Definitely the Curly W. like I said earlier, it wasn’t until getting here that he moved into his current role as #2 or 3 in all of baseball. I know he won a CYA before then, but he has elevated his game here.


    10 Nov 17 at 2:15 pm

  25. Max’s performance with the Nats wasn’t a given. As we know, nine-figure contracts for pitchers entering their 30s have a bad track record. In three seasons in DC, Max has posted 18 fWAR, 20 bWAR. He won the CYA in 2016, and his 2017 stats are better in nearly every category. Fingers crossed that we’ve got at least a couple of more strong years before regression.


    10 Nov 17 at 8:24 pm

  26. At the going rate of roughly $7M per WAR … 20.6 bWAR is already worth $144M of value … a good chunk of the $210 he’s owed. Lets all remember this if/when he regresses towards the end of this deal.

    Todd Boss

    13 Nov 17 at 9:16 am

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