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Snubbed: Revisiting: Johan Santana's One and Done Hall of Fame Case

In 2018, Johan Santana became eligible for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame for the very first time. He was promptly found ineligible for future consideration after drawing only 2.4% of the vote from the BBWAA. While a solid Hall of Fame resume is certainly in question, a first ballot exit is outrageous for one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in the 2000s.
Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Reason 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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45 Comments

Nicely done. I agree completely. He was snubbed.
    • gil4 and DocBauer like this

One aspect of Sandy Koufax's career that nobody really mentions is the stadium effect.Bill James was the first to bring this up in one of the earliest Bill James books when he originally brought up stadium impacts.  

 

Koufax was considered a good pitcher prior to 1962 but not a HOF pitchel.He led the NL in strikeouts in 1961 and made the all-star team but he and Drysdale (who won the CY Young in 1962, Koufax won in 1963,1965, and 1966) had never received a Cy Young vote in their careers. 

 

But then the Dodgers moved to Dodger Stadium.  

 

If you look at the home-road splits of Koufax's career you can see what "improved".

 

1960 Home ERA 5.27 Road ERA 3.00

1961 Home ERA 4.22 Road ERA 2.77

1962 Home ERA 1.75 Road ERA3.53

1963 Home ERA 1.38 Road ERA 2.31

1964 Home ERA 0.85 Road ERA2.93

1965 Home ERA 1.38 Road ERA2.72

 

I will let you guess which year the Dodgers move from Los Angeles Memorial Collisuem to Dodger Stadium.  

 

Sandy Koufax is the most overrated pitcher in baseball history.

 

I think Santana deserves more of a look at HOF.Although his career did not put up cumulative numbers like Bert Blyleven, over a the course of his primary career he was a dominant pitcher and was recognized by the observers of the time. A two time CY Young winner, 2 3rd place finishes, a 5th, and a 7th. He placed in the top 10 for MVP twice, and won a gold glove.

 

The real problem with the voting for HOF is that the cumulative stats are what these voters look for.I think eventually Santana WILL get in teh HOF via the veteran committee voting.

    • DocBauer, Trov, Dennesey55347 and 3 others like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Apr 04 2020 09:02 PM
That darn Cy Young that went to Bartolo Colon.
    • gil4, Dantes929, h2oface and 4 others like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 04 2020 11:06 PM

While I support the general idea of this article, Johan is a fringy HoF candidate, at best. Baseball history is littered with elite pitchers who fell off a cliff around age 30.

 

I'm saving my outrage for when Mauer gets snubbed in the first few ballots because he was literally a player who did things no baseball player in history had ever done and rocked enormous JAWS ratings on par with the best catchers in baseball history.

    • ashbury, gil4, Sconnie and 5 others like this

While I support the general idea of this article, Johan is a fringy HoF candidate, at best. Baseball history is littered with elite pitchers who fell off a cliff around age 30.
 
I'm saving my outrage for when Mauer gets snubbed in the first few ballots because he was literally a player who did things no baseball player in history had ever done and rocked enormous JAWS ratings on par with the best catchers in baseball history.

I agree! It's hard to say Johan should be in the Hall. I just think it's a guy punch to his career that he wasn't even deemed worthy of several times through the voting process. He doesn't have the accolades but his peak should have garnered more attention from the BBWAA in my opinion.
    • #1ShaneMackFan likes this

Koufax also pitched off of a 15 inch pithcer's mound, and in Dodger Stadium, it was more like 18 inches (legendary). Koufax had 6 pretty pedestrian years to start his career, but the final 6 were the ticket. Santana, like Mauer, finished his career on the slide. Best to go out in glory for a ticket to the HOF. Mauer was a lock, like Puckett, if he would have retired after the concussion year. Now.......? Best to go out in glory.

    • Dantes929 likes this

I don’t know.  I think that this article wouldn’t have been written if Santana hadn’t been “our guy”.  Looking at comps for Santana, a really good one is Cliff Lee....no one is calling for HIS induction.

 

Johan just had some bad luck: he could’ve been in the rotation full-time one year earlier (his 12-3 year), in 2005 he had an L or ND in about 9 close games which would have cinched his 3rd Cy Young, he has a really mediocre 2007 year, then the exact same thing as 2005 happens to him in 2008 which loses him a 4th Cy Young...and then he gets injured and falls off the cliff.

 

If Santana wins four Cy Youngs in five years, THEN we can all be outraged that a guy with only 140 career wins bombs out of the HOF voting.

 

I feel a lot worse for guys like Jim Kaat, who had a great long career and fell short of the only counting stat that matters for HOF pitchers - 300 wins.  Kaat pitched for 25 years - maybe to chase that number - and fell 17 wins short.  Imagine thinking about 17 more lousy wins across 25 years....

    • h2oface, jud6312, ewen21 and 1 other like this
It’s ridiculous that Torii Hunter will probably get a larger percentage of votes this year than Johan did. Hope the Vet’s Committee gives him a long look. What other pitchers from that era will get in otherwise? Santana, Halladay, and Sabathia sounds about right.

WOW Mlhouse.....some great stats that really tell a different story!TY!

**************

But then the Dodgers moved to Dodger Stadium. 

 

If you look at the home-road splits of Koufax's career you can see what "improved".

 

1960 Home ERA 5.27 Road ERA 3.00

1961 Home ERA 4.22 Road ERA 2.77

1962 Home ERA 1.75 Road ERA3.53

1963 Home ERA 1.38 Road ERA 2.31

1964 Home ERA 0.85 Road ERA2.93

1965 Home ERA 1.38 Road ERA2.72

Photo
Doctor Gast
Apr 05 2020 07:03 AM

 

One aspect of Sandy Koufax's career that nobody really mentions is the stadium effect.Bill James was the first to bring this up in one of the earliest Bill James books when he originally brought up stadium impacts.  

 

Koufax was considered a good pitcher prior to 1962 but not a HOF pitchel.He led the NL in strikeouts in 1961 and made the all-star team but he and Drysdale (who won the CY Young in 1962, Koufax won in 1963,1965, and 1966) had never received a Cy Young vote in their careers. 

 

But then the Dodgers moved to Dodger Stadium.  

 

If you look at the home-road splits of Koufax's career you can see what "improved".

 

1960 Home ERA 5.27 Road ERA 3.00

1961 Home ERA 4.22 Road ERA 2.77

1962 Home ERA 1.75 Road ERA3.53

1963 Home ERA 1.38 Road ERA 2.31

1964 Home ERA 0.85 Road ERA2.93

1965 Home ERA 1.38 Road ERA2.72

 

I will let you guess which year the Dodgers move from Los Angeles Memorial Collisuem to Dodger Stadium.  

 

Sandy Koufax is the most overrated pitcher in baseball history.

 

I think Santana deserves more of a look at HOF.Although his career did not put up cumulative numbers like Bert Blyleven, over a the course of his primary career he was a dominant pitcher and was recognized by the observers of the time. A two time CY Young winner, 2 3rd place finishes, a 5th, and a 7th. He placed in the top 10 for MVP twice, and won a gold glove.

 

The real problem with the voting for HOF is that the cumulative stats are what these voters look for.I think eventually Santana WILL get in teh HOF via the veteran committee voting.

I agree there is a definite advantage pitching in Dodger stadium especially if your a Dodger! Also being in a big market doesn`t hurt. They should take that into account. IMO Santana was the most dominate pitcher during his glory years, great article!

While I support the general idea of this article, Johan is a fringy HoF candidate, at best. Baseball history is littered with elite pitchers who fell off a cliff around age 30.
 
I'm saving my outrage for when Mauer gets snubbed in the first few ballots because he was literally a player who did things no baseball player in history had ever done and rocked enormous JAWS ratings on par with the best catchers in baseball history.


Honestly, despite being what I hope is a highly educated and informed fan, I hadn't realized Johan had been THAT dominate over his primary 7yr span. But I believe Cody's arguement was not so much Santana is a sure-fire HOFer but rather objecting to the fact that he was dismissed entirely after ONE YEAR on the ballot.

It's always amazing to me how some players can have shortened careers, or be somewhat average but with a period of dominance and be elected while others can be dismissed like Santana in this case. I won't even pretend to dis on Loud as, but he was good not great initially and had his career end early. Our own Kirby Puckett had his career shortened tragically, but if you compare some of his final numbers to other HOF selections, he falls short. And yet he was universally thought of as a HOF.

I don't understand how Santana could be dismissed so easily here.

And I'm right there with you in regard to Mauer. Already gearing up the fan rage expected to be needed to lash out.
    • Dantes929 and JLease like this

 

I don’t know.  I think that this article wouldn’t have been written if Santana hadn’t been “our guy”.  Looking at comps for Santana, a really good one is Cliff Lee....no one is calling for HIS induction.

 

Johan just had some bad luck: he could’ve been in the rotation full-time one year earlier (his 12-3 year), in 2005 he had an L or ND in about 9 close games which would have cinched his 3rd Cy Young, he has a really mediocre 2007 year, then the exact same thing as 2005 happens to him in 2008 which loses him a 4th Cy Young...and then he gets injured and falls off the cliff.

 

If Santana wins four Cy Youngs in five years, THEN we can all be outraged that a guy with only 140 career wins bombs out of the HOF voting.

 

I feel a lot worse for guys like Jim Kaat, who had a great long career and fell short of the only counting stat that matters for HOF pitchers - 300 wins.  Kaat pitched for 25 years - maybe to chase that number - and fell 17 wins short.  Imagine thinking about 17 more lousy wins across 25 years....

Cliff Lee was really good and my memory was that he would be a fringy candidate but looking at his career he's got a Cy Young and two top 5 finishes so not really a great comp to 2 Cy Youngs and 3 top 5 finishes.A better comp is a guy that I Have been calling for and that is Ron Guidry. One Cy Young in about the most dominant seasons ever that ended in World Series Champion along with 3 top 5 finishes Again, do you want a HOF of very good for a long time or great for a shorter time.My HOF would probably have Santana and Guidry ahead of Blyleven and Morris. I'm not going to be outraged no matter what. 

    • h2oface, FanFromPhilly and sweetmusicviola16 like this

 

While I support the general idea of this article, Johan is a fringy HoF candidate, at best. Baseball history is littered with elite pitchers who fell off a cliff around age 30.

 

 

I don't necessarily disagree that Johan might be a fringy HoF candidate, but he deserved better than a 1 and done. 

 

The Koufax comps are better than people realize: Johan's bWAR in 12 seasons sits at 51.7. Koufax (also in 12 seasons) 48.9. The JAWS numbers are pretty similar too.

 

If he wins the 3rd Cy (which Colon robbed him of, an indefensible decision) does it make a difference? He wasn't an awful pitcher after coming back from the disastrous injury, but he also wasn't the same guy. If he'd limped along for another 2-3 years and swept up another 15 wins or would it/should it have mattered?

 

Personally, I think it shouldn't. Johan was a comet, but the level of dominance is enough to make up for the relative lack of longevity. He was THE best pitcher in baseball for a 5-7 year period and everyone knew it. There's a place in the Hall for guys who dominate to that level for an extended period but don't have the 18 year career. More importantly, he deserved a few years on the ballot for people to truly look at and appreciate his brilliant career.

 

It's not Johan's fault that Liriano blew out his elbow in 2006 and that wonderful team didn't make the deep run in the playoffs we all wanted. (Johan was terrific in game 1, just got outdueled by Zito) The bats didn't show that series. Should that make a difference? Again, I don't think so.

 

Johan wasn't a good pitcher, he was a great pitcher. He was an amazing pitcher. A signature player with a signature pitch and they should have taken his HoF case a little more seriously. He deserved much better than 1 and done.

    • h2oface and DocBauer like this

The biggest difference between Johan and Koufax is the laundry. If Johan had spent his career with the Yankees, he would already be in the hall.

    • DocBauer, Trov and Doctor Gast like this
Thank you, mlhouse. After reading the article, I had planned on commenting, “Sandy Koufax is the most overrated baseball player of all time.” You beat me to it.

I hate comparing MLB players from different eras, anyway. It’s all relative to your competition, which is wildly different. The best players right now are the best players of all time. Period. Drop Johan Santana as he was in his prime back into the Koufax era, and he may not give up an earned run over his entire career. Take Babe Ruth how he was in his prime in today’s game, and he would never even step foot in an MLB ballpark as a player (hyperbole, but I think the point is conveyed). It’s like comparing one of today’s super cars to a Model T in terms of racing. Sandy Koufax is not a better baseball player than Johan Santana, he just played against worse baseball players. Pitchers in today’s era especially are screwed if you’re playing that game. The physicality and skill of the hitters isn’t even in the same ballpark. It’s like playing against a different species of human. Shouldn’t those things be considered, instead of just comparing ERAs (which is widely considered a useless statistic now, anyway)? Is a no hitter really that impressive when you’re facing a lineup with nobody in it? Just a quick search reveals that there was a 20+ point differential in league wide OPS in 1955 vs 2010.

Also, equipment differences (juiced balls), technological differences (endless scouting), smaller strike zones, smaller ballparks, differences in approach (people giving up more outs via bunting, etc.)
I think had Johan and the Twins won a world Series he would have received a lot more consideration. Someone brought up Kirby and Blyleven, and Morris, etc... But the one difference between those guys and Koufax for that matter is that those guys won the big one. Had Johan and the Twins won it all once I think Johan would get more consideration. There is no replacement for playing and doing well on the biggest stage, think about how many people think Madbaum is a great pitcher, he is good, but those heroics in the WS gets him so much more publicity. This may be Mauer's undoing also? Hope not, but that is the one thread amongst those guys that I mentioned is world series heroics.
    • h2oface likes this
Out of Santana’s era (peak between 2000 and 2010), there are only two other starting pitchers that will probably make the Hall of Fame: CC and Roy Halladay. Johan Santana is the 3rd best pitcher of that era from accolades. Johan and Joe Mauer are definitely Hall of Famers.
    • DocBauer likes this
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purplesoldier4u
Apr 05 2020 11:01 AM

I don't believe he has HoF numbers, but one-and-done is ludicrous. While he never had the career of Pedro Martinez, Johan's 7-year run, 2002-2008, is somewhat comparable to Pedro's 1997-2003 run. Unfortunately, in his shortened career, with a not as great team, Johan had a few really bad post-season starts where the team needed him to dominate and he did not.

    • h2oface likes this
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Nine of twelve
Apr 05 2020 11:46 AM

It's too easy to be elected to the HOF.

 

I think peak value should be a very minimal factor to consider, and probably shouldn't matter at all. Here's an example I like to cite: Mark Fidrych had an ERA of 2.47 during his first three seasons. It would not be difficult to make the argument that he was the best starting pitcher in the majors during that time. In spite of this, I don't think there's a reasonable case for him to be inducted.

 

Cumulative performance is what sets the greatest players apart from the rest. Some of the players who have been inducted fall a bit short of the standard I would apply, including my favorite baseball player ever. We'll never know, but if not for one game in October of 1991 and the sympathy factor of a popular player suffering a retinal hemorrhage I think Kirby would have been a borderline inductee. And there are many others who don't truly stand far above the rest.

 

There's also the other side of the coin, where deserving players are not voted in or have to endure a long wait. There's no better example than Blyleven. When he retired he was third all time in strikeouts. Repeating for emphasis: ****ing THIRD! In the history of the game! If a player retired third all time in home runs he would deservingly be close to unanimous on the first ballot, and Blyleven should have been.

 

This type of thing has made me conclude that being elected to the HOF is unimportant. Let the records of the players, managers, and others stand on their own without a highly arbitrary thumbs-up/thumbs-down vote.

 

 

    • Sconnie likes this

 

...... the only counting stat that matters for HOF pitchers - 300 wins....

 

Yet Dizzy Dean had 150, Sandy Koufax 165, Roy Halladay 203, Don Drysdale 209, Pedro Martinez 219, Whitey Ford 236, Bob Gibson 251, just to name a few. In fact the "average pitching HOF'er" has 246 wins. While the relievers that are factored into that average will skew that a bit, (perhaps a stat guy can filter out the relievers), just a look at the list and it is blatant. I think the 300 wins thing has been the "automatic" number (only Clemens has 300 and is not in), but not the only counting stat that matters.....

 

https://www.baseball..._pitching.shtml

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Buddy Holly
Apr 05 2020 01:53 PM

First should Johan been on the ballot more than one year yes. Was he a HOF player based on his 4-5 good years No. 

I watched Koufax carve up the one of the best Twins teams. He gave up 2 runs in 3 games, 1 earned. He won 25 games 3 times, 137 complete games, 40 shutouts. For you younger people a complete game is when a pitcher pitches the whole 9 innings. I wonder how good Koufax could have been if he knew he only had to pitch 7 innings like Santana did most of the time. Koufax also had to pitch against every team in the NL 18 times and teams like Giants and others had killer lineups. Santana had the benefit of pitching in the AL central against AAAA team on most years. Don't get me wrong I really like Johan Santana but he is not in the same class as Koufax, and Koufax broke my heart in 1965 WS. Koufax is not over rated I watched him pitch and he was a Stud. 

    • h2oface, jud6312 and jkcarew like this

Sandy Koufax is overrated? 

 

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    • h2oface, DocBauer, jkcarew and 1 other like this

 

That darn Cy Young that went to Bartolo Colon.

If they had given it to Rivera, I could have accepted that they were comparing apples to oranges and the orange looked really good at the time. But comparing Johan to Colon was apples to apples, and the only metric that made Colon look like the better pitcher was the one that tells you the least about the pitcher - wins. Johan pitched more innings, had a much better ERA, ERA+, more strikeouts, higher WAR... It should have been no contest between the two.

    • Dantes929, h2oface, DocBauer and 1 other like this

 

It's too easy to be elected to the HOF.

 

I think peak value should be a very minimal factor to consider, and probably shouldn't matter at all. Here's an example I like to cite: Mark Fidrych

 

Cumulative performance is what sets the greatest players apart from the rest.


There's also the other side of the coin, where deserving players are not voted in or have to endure a long wait. There's no better example than Blyleven. When he retired he was third all time in strikeouts. Repeating for emphasis: ****ing THIRD! In the history of the game! 

It's not easy to be elected to the HoF. The problem is they have different groups electing people using different standards, and those standards tend to change frequently. 

When people talk about peak performance in connection with the Hall, they are normally not talking about that one great year. It normally refers to a peak established level of consistent excellence, and a metric like BR's 7-yr peak WAR helps capture that. 

You are more likely to win championships with 10 years of great than with 20 years of really good (like Harold Baines).(It helps if your greatness actually results in a championship.) 

I think Blyleven got snubbed because he pitched so long they remembered the guy who was good despite leading the league in HR allowed and they forgot the guy who was a dominant pitcher in his early 20s pitching for crappy teams in MLB backwaters.)

Quick exercise: List Blyleven, Koufax, and Santana in order of 7-yr peak bWAR. (I listed them alphabetically.) 

 

    • DocBauer and partial_lattice like this

 

One aspect of Sandy Koufax's career that nobody really mentions is the stadium effect.Bill James was the first to bring this up in one of the earliest Bill James books when he originally brought up stadium impacts.  

 

Koufax was considered a good pitcher prior to 1962 but not a HOF pitchel.He led the NL in strikeouts in 1961 and made the all-star team but he and Drysdale (who won the CY Young in 1962, Koufax won in 1963,1965, and 1966) had never received a Cy Young vote in their careers. 

 

But then the Dodgers moved to Dodger Stadium.  

 

If you look at the home-road splits of Koufax's career you can see what "improved".

 

1960 Home ERA 5.27 Road ERA 3.00

1961 Home ERA 4.22 Road ERA 2.77

1962 Home ERA 1.75 Road ERA3.53

1963 Home ERA 1.38 Road ERA 2.31

1964 Home ERA 0.85 Road ERA2.93

1965 Home ERA 1.38 Road ERA2.72

 

I will let you guess which year the Dodgers move from Los Angeles Memorial Collisuem to Dodger Stadium.  

 

Sandy Koufax is the most overrated pitcher in baseball history.

Context, please. The LA Coliseum was, literally, the smallest stadium in the history of major league baseball. Way further from the mean on the hitter's side than Dodgers stadium ever was on the pitcher's side...especially for left-handed pitchers. 250 feet down the left field line. 320 to to the left-center power alley. (300 feet down the right field line.)

 

Stadiums had nothing to do with Koufax's emergence. It was his control. He went from 1.88 K/BB ratio in 1959 (with a 10.2 K/9 rate) to 5.38 K/BB rate in 1965 with the same exact 10.2 K/9. Did Dodgers stadium make his great numbers even greater? Probably. But, it's not like he was anything close to 'average' on the road in his prime years.

 

It's amusing to me when historians wrangle numbers around 50 years after the fact to make a point without providing any context for what contemporaries had to say (although, James is normally decent at providing that context). Everyone...EVERYONE who saw Koufax pitch in his prime said he was one of the 1, 2, 3 best pitchers to ever pitch. He dominated and demolished the Twins in 1965 (at Met Stadium: 15 IP, 1 ER, 9 hits (0 HR), 19K, 4BB). I'm 100% sure if you asked any of the surviving '65 Twins that have remained close to the game (Oliva, Kaat...) they'd say he was better than all but a very small handful that they've seen since.

    • DocBauer, jud6312 and ewen21 like this