Snubbed: Revisiting: Johan Santana's One and Done Hall of Fame Case
Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY SportsReason to withhold votes for Santana is obvious. Not throwing a pitch past your age 33 season is a bruise to your resume. Santana laid it all on the line in 2012 to complete a 134 pitch no-hitter with the Mets. After posting a 2.35 ERA to begin the season, he followed up his no-hitter with an 8.27 ERA in the 10 starts that followed. He would never be the same pitcher after ruining his shoulder in the spring of the following year.
For injury-shortened careers, The JAWS system was created to examine a player’s dominance rather than longevity. This is a metric that averages a player’s career bWAR with the bWAR from their seven-year peak. For Johan Sanatana, his seven-year peak from 2004-2010 was fantastic. He led baseball with a bWAR of 43.6 during that time. In addition, Johan was number one in ERA, WHIP, Ks, and opponent batting average. Not to mention being top five in several other categories.
For Johan to have topped so many charts in this span is even more impressive given the competition during this time. These peak seasons from Johan paralleled other pitchers in their heyday such as future Hall of Famer C.C. Sabathia and the late already Hall of Famer Roy Halladay. For those seven years, Johan Santana was THE ace of the MLB.
Some compare Johan to Sandy Koufax, whose career ended at 30 due to physical ailments as well. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call the two extremely comparable, as “The Left Arm of God” has a resume that’s hard to top given his three Cy Young’s to Johan’s two, four no-hitters to Johan’s one, perfect game, three pitcher's triple crowns to Johan’s one, regular season MVP as well as two World Series MVPs. Koufax is a legend, his mystique in the history books is almost unparalleled. To use his similarly shortened career to justify Johan’s deserving of being in the Hall of Fame may be a stretch. Johan’s JAWS metric of 48.3 is actually superior to Koufax’s at 47.4 however. He may not have the accolades of Sandy Koufax to push him into undisputed Hall of Fame territory, but shouldn’t a pitcher with a higher value peak and similarly shortened career at least be considered for a few runs on the ballot?
JAWS is a metric that was put together for players just like Johan Santana. Some say “It’s not the Hall of very good, it’s the Hall of Fame.” Johan Santana was not very good before injuries took his career from him, he was the gold standard of the 2000s. Longevity in a career will always be a benchmark to many writers for voting a new member into the Hall. That being said, this wasn’t a couple of fantastic seasons in an otherwise “very good” career. It was a pitcher who demonstrated he was on his way to a full career of excellence before his body betrayed him. A first-round exit was a snub, plain and simple.
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