Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Warming Up In The Bullpen

It took a long time for relief pitchers to be recognized for inductions to Cooperstown.  Why is that?  My theory is that because most relievers only handled about 1/3 the workload of a starter, that they didn’t deserve to be recognized.  It was also looked at that those who weren’t good enough to start are sent to the bullpen.  There is some foundation to that line of thought.  But, the closer has taken on such a prominent role in recent years that you have to start looking at them as being legendary players.  Check that list of World Champions from a couple of posts ago.  Not only did they have good rotations, but they had strong bullpens as well.  A common thing that Whitey Herzog mentioned in the 1980s was how his bullpen was strong enough to shorten games to a six or 7 inning affair.  If bullpens can be what distinguishes from a good team and a great team, then you need to start looking at players in the bullpen as being all time greats.  I’m not saying that we should induct all types of relievers, like setup men and LOOGY’s, but inducting closers I’m ok with.

There are 5 relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame.  Not much to go on for an average, but it’s something.  Of those 5, their average career was 18.6 years and had a career WAR of 38.6, giving us a baseline of 2.7 WAR/yr.  I’m cutting it down to 1.95.  Why would I do such a thing?  Simply put, our relievers today don’t get that workload, and even the top closer on my list I’d consider more of a 1 inning closer than anything else.  The extra work hurts their value a bit more than you’d expect.  With that out of the way, here are the WAR+ values:


Amazing to see what our old relievers look like compared to the new guys, eh?  Not much to say about this one.  I’d imagine that most people would put Sutter below Gossage and Fingers, but Sutter was a lot better than people remember.  He was a decent strikeout pitcher, and didn’t give up as many baserunners as those two.  What hurts Rollie a bit is a slow start to a career (He was mostly a 1 WAR player at best until his age 28 season), but after that it was pretty darn good.

Upcoming Ballots:
Lee Arthur Smith:  WAR+ of 88.  His career seems pretty solid to me.  I’d have no problem with him being inducted.

2013-2015: No one worth looking at.  And yes, I’ll ignore Tom Gordon and Jose Mesa if I want to.

2016: Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman come up.  Hoffman gets an 89.  Wagner gets a 100.  I don’t know what’s hurting Hoffman that much.  His career ERA+ is 141, he struck out over 9 per inning.  Yet in 6 of his 18 years he was worth less than 1 WAR.  WAR is pretty tough on relievers.  With Wagner, he was pretty much a left handed one inning Nolan Ryan, and I think a lot of people would want that coming out of their pen most days.

I guess that’s every position.  Remember, I’m only looking at players.  Managers, executives, all that stuff can stay in and it’s too hard to tier them.  I’ve got one more post in this series coming up about current players who I think will make it.  Should be a fun read and calculation.

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