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Why isn't Johan Santana in the Hall of Fame?


Zach Hartford
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31 minutes ago, Seth Stohs said:

I am also biased and think he should be. His 7-8 year peak was as good as anyone's. Even if some think he didn't have the longevity, what's most ridiculous is he didn't even get to a second vote. He was one-and-done on the ballot. Just crazy. 

I compared Santana to Sandy Koufax here about 4 years ago... 

 

Awesome article! Really well broken down. That's the most outrageous part to me is the fact that he was a one and done on the ballot. I would understand more if he sat on the ballot for a while and didn't make it, but he was very overlooked. 

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26 minutes ago, Zach Hartford said:

There's a lot more to statistics than just WAR. He led the league in almost every category for three years straight and should've won three straight Cy Young Awards. If he would've won it in 2005, then he would be in the HOF.

Which is nice and all, but it's only 3 years.  In my mind that's not long enough for HOF inclusion, unless its paired with a separate decade or more of seasons of solid or better results.  This is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Really Good.  I think in this instance we're probably placing a little too much emphasis on that 3rd Cy Young--if three but not two Cy Young awards is enough to take a guy from falling off the ballot in his first year of eligibility to inductee, then it's not a good metric in my opinion.

Johan was a phenomenal pitcher for 3 straight years, but there's plenty of pitchers who have had 3 phenomenal years.  Johan is not competing against the other pitchers pitching in 2004-2006, he's competing against every pitcher who has ever played the game.  He just simply, due to lack of longevity, does not measure up.

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1 hour ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

Which is nice and all, but it's only 3 years.  In my mind that's not long enough for HOF inclusion, unless its paired with a separate decade or more of seasons of solid or better results.  This is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Really Good.  I think in this instance we're probably placing a little too much emphasis on that 3rd Cy Young--if three but not two Cy Young awards is enough to take a guy from falling off the ballot in his first year of eligibility to inductee, then it's not a good metric in my opinion.

Johan was a phenomenal pitcher for 3 straight years, but there's plenty of pitchers who have had 3 phenomenal years.  Johan is not competing against the other pitchers pitching in 2004-2006, he's competing against every pitcher who has ever played the game.  He just simply, due to lack of longevity, does not measure up.

My original argument falls back on the point that he should've won the 2005 Cy Young, and every pitcher that has won 3 Cy Young's is or will be in the HOF. He also pitched at an elite level for more than three years. From 2002-10 his worst ERA+ was 129. He was 3rd in Cy Young voting in 2008, in which he led the league in ERA and IP. 

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4 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

Koufax had 6 straight years with at least 5.7 WAR, Santana's best 6 year stretch is at 3.7 as a minimum.  In those 6 years, Koufax put up 46.5 WAR, Santana put up 33.5.  Santana's best 3 year stretch was 20.6, while Koufax's was 25.3.  Santana's best year by WAR (7.1 in 2005) would only be Koufax's 4th best year (Koufax had 10 in 1965, 9.2 in 1963, 9.1 in 1966).  Koufax also would have put up even more WAR in 1964 and 1962, if he hadn't pitched 100+ fewer innings in those seasons.  Koufax's prime is not just longer, it's clearly better as well.

Now--Koufax did pitch far more innings than Santana, and since WAR is a counting stat, that has to be taken into account.  That said, ability to throw that many high quality innings is worthwhile.  I think it also has to be taken into account that Koufax retired while on top, after his 9.1 WAR in 1966, just before he turned 31.  That surely made people assume he would have had 4-5 good years left at minimum, whereas Santana made it very clear he had no more good years left.

Santana's career follows the same trendline, to a degree, as Koufax', but at significantly lower altitude.


“Like” button for the excellent analysis, though I don’t like your conclusion. I regretfully agree with that conclusion, however. 

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4 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

Koufax had 6 straight years with at least 5.7 WAR, Santana's best 6 year stretch is at 3.7 as a minimum.  In those 6 years, Koufax put up 46.5 WAR, Santana put up 33.5.  Santana's best 3 year stretch was 20.6, while Koufax's was 25.3.  Santana's best year by WAR (7.1 in 2005) would only be Koufax's 4th best year (Koufax had 10 in 1965, 9.2 in 1963, 9.1 in 1966).  Koufax also would have put up even more WAR in 1964 and 1962, if he hadn't pitched 100+ fewer innings in those seasons.  Koufax's prime is not just longer, it's clearly better as well.

Now--Koufax did pitch far more innings than Santana, and since WAR is a counting stat, that has to be taken into account.  That said, ability to throw that many high quality innings is worthwhile.  I think it also has to be taken into account that Koufax retired while on top, after his 9.1 WAR in 1966, just before he turned 31.  That surely made people assume he would have had 4-5 good years left at minimum, whereas Santana made it very clear he had no more good years left.

Santana's career follows the same trendline, to a degree, as Koufax', but at significantly lower altitude.

I think it’s worth pointing out that, based on the evidence you provided, Santana’s peak is actually up there with Koufax’s. Not saying it was as good, but it’s up there. 

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Johan Belongs. Guess we'll have to run another one of those campaigns to get him in, because he deserves it.

The reason Johan Santana isn't in the HoF has a lot to do with him getting caught in the transition away from wins as being an important stat for pitchers; 139 wins in 12 seasons doesn't look like much. The other aspect is HoF voters wrestling with what to do with the "comets" as Bill Simmons likes to call them, guys who are incredibly dominant over a shorter period that's cut short because of injury. Johan was out of baseball after his age 33 season and for decades starting pitchers were guys who pitched until they were into their late 30's, piled up huge win totals and no one cared if their last 5 years in the league weren't very impressive if they still ate up 180-200 innings and nailed down 10-15 wins per season. And they ding him for not winning a ring. If he had a signature WS moment, he'd be in the Hall.

He's worthy, though. He didn't just have a dominant 3 year run, he had a stretch where he was top 5 in the Cy 5 years in a row! That's incredible. He should have won it in 2005, of course; Colon's win was ridiculous and would never happen today. 

I'm more impressed with guys who are great for a 7-10 year period than compilers who are good to very good for 15-20 years. Give me the guy who is in the conversation for the Cy 5 years in a row and if you exclude him from a conversation of who the best pitcher in baseball is for that 5 year run, then your list is simply invalid. And that's the reality: from 2003-2008 if you talked about the best pitcher in baseball, before, during, or after season and Johan's name doesn't come up then you don't know anything about baseball. He was truly, truly great.

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55 minutes ago, jmlease1 said:

Johan Belongs. Guess we'll have to run another one of those campaigns to get him in, because he deserves it.

The reason Johan Santana isn't in the HoF has a lot to do with him getting caught in the transition away from wins as being an important stat for pitchers; 139 wins in 12 seasons doesn't look like much. The other aspect is HoF voters wrestling with what to do with the "comets" as Bill Simmons likes to call them, guys who are incredibly dominant over a shorter period that's cut short because of injury. Johan was out of baseball after his age 33 season and for decades starting pitchers were guys who pitched until they were into their late 30's, piled up huge win totals and no one cared if their last 5 years in the league weren't very impressive if they still ate up 180-200 innings and nailed down 10-15 wins per season. And they ding him for not winning a ring. If he had a signature WS moment, he'd be in the Hall.

He's worthy, though. He didn't just have a dominant 3 year run, he had a stretch where he was top 5 in the Cy 5 years in a row! That's incredible. He should have won it in 2005, of course; Colon's win was ridiculous and would never happen today. 

I'm more impressed with guys who are great for a 7-10 year period than compilers who are good to very good for 15-20 years. Give me the guy who is in the conversation for the Cy 5 years in a row and if you exclude him from a conversation of who the best pitcher in baseball is for that 5 year run, then your list is simply invalid. And that's the reality: from 2003-2008 if you talked about the best pitcher in baseball, before, during, or after season and Johan's name doesn't come up then you don't know anything about baseball. He was truly, truly great.

Couldn't agree more! Hopefully those that understand the newer statistics used today can see how elite he really was. As we know, wins aren't an important pitcher stat. Gotta keep our fingers crossed for the writers to vote him in.

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7 hours ago, prouster said:

I think it’s worth pointing out that, based on the evidence you provided, Santana’s peak is actually up there with Koufax’s. Not saying it was as good, but it’s up there. 

It is not a hall of peak performances but a long career of greatness. Santana did not have enough years of greatness.

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One question for you people.  How many strikeouts would Koufax have in modern era.  

For those who do not remember, who was the 4th starter for the Dodgers in the 1963 - 1965 era?

It was Johnny Podres, the hero of the 1955 world series. 

This was also in the different mound days.  They lowered the mound after Bob Gibson's 1968 season.  

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10 hours ago, Brandon said:

I feel he was about 1000-1500 innings short.  While he had that huge 3 year run and several other good years.  His run wasn't long enough.  

On a side note.  Roger Clemens has more then 3 Cy Youngs and he may not get in either.  He has over 350 career wins and over 4000Ks.  so go figure.  

 

5 years, not three. (arguably 6 or 7, but 5 straight years where he was in the conversation as the best pitcher in baseball, and not a fringe wild card that someone threw in to stir the pot or a home town pick) And innings aren't the only metric; if Johan had tacked on 5 more seasons pitching like Bob Tewksbury's final 5, would that really make him more Hall-worthy? He'd have a bunch more innings, some more wins and Ks on his resume but would we really be judging him on the impact of those years?

Clemens is a fraught case from the steroid era. The reason he's likely to not get in is because the voters currently don't know how to deal with someone like him: there's a real split between voters who don't care/won't punish someone for what baseball turned a blind eye to/think he's worthy regardless and those who think he cheated. YMMV on which is the proper position, but it's not really relevant to whether Johan is worthy of the Hall.

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7 minutes ago, jmlease1 said:

5 years, not three. (arguably 6 or 7, but 5 straight years where he was in the conversation as the best pitcher in baseball, and not a fringe wild card that someone threw in to stir the pot or a home town pick) And innings aren't the only metric; if Johan had tacked on 5 more seasons pitching like Bob Tewksbury's final 5, would that really make him more Hall-worthy? He'd have a bunch more innings, some more wins and Ks on his resume but would we really be judging him on the impact of those years?

Clemens is a fraught case from the steroid era. The reason he's likely to not get in is because the voters currently don't know how to deal with someone like him: there's a real split between voters who don't care/won't punish someone for what baseball turned a blind eye to/think he's worthy regardless and those who think he cheated. YMMV on which is the proper position, but it's not really relevant to whether Johan is worthy of the Hall.

I mentioned Clements because the author said every pitcher with 3 Cy Young's is in the hall.  Clements is not.  

Adam Wainright is a good comparable.  Do you think he is a hall of fame?  He was a great pitcher but injuries held him back and he is about 1000 innings shy of enough accomplishments to get in IMO

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On 10/21/2021 at 10:19 PM, Brock Beauchamp said:

Wait. JOHAN HAS 51 WAR ON B-REF???!???

I swear I checked this like six months ago and it was mid-30s but now it is definitely over 50.

Brock confused. 

Maybe you were looking at WAA instead? That's at 32.8.

Using the Wayback Machine, Santana's WAR has been over 50 at B-Ref since 2013, when they adjusted their replacement level in coordination with Fangraphs.

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On 10/21/2021 at 9:03 PM, Zach Hartford said:

As we can see, the 2005 Cy Young clearly should've belonged to Johan Santana. This means that he should've been a 3 time Cy Young winner, with those being 3 straight from 2004-06. This is very important because every 3 time Cy Young Award winner is either in the Hall of Fame now, or will be in the Hall of Fame once they are retired.

Put another way, your criteria isn't winning the Cy Young 3 times, but rather deserving to win it 3 times. I think you'd have to do more research to see how that relates to Hall of Fame induction -- is every pitcher who deserved to win it 3 times in the Hall of Fame? What about other guys snubbed like Santana? How many 3 time actual winners were snubbed from winning a 4th (and thus separating themselves from Santana a bit)?

For example, Halladay won 2 Cy Youngs. But we can't say Santana was his equal or better because he should have won 3 -- Halladay actually led his league in pitching WAR 4 times, so by your "deserving" criteria, he arguably deserved 4 Cy Youngs. (Plus 66 career WAR to Santana's 51.)

It's a fun topic, thanks for bringing it up!

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21 minutes ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

Maybe you were looking at WAA instead? That's at 32.8.

Using the Wayback Machine, Santana's WAR has been over 50 at B-Ref since 2013, when they adjusted their replacement level in coordination with Fangraphs.

Oh, I’m sure it hasn’t moved much (if at all), I’m only surprised my memory is so far off on this. 

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The other problem with the "3 Cy Youngs" criteria is that it while it usually indicates a pretty darn good pitcher, we know it's not the only criteria for HOF induction. Just looking over 21st century inductees, Mussina and Schilling didn't win a single Cy Young between them, and using "led their league in pitching WAR" as a proxy for deserving a Cy Young, they only did it once combined (Mussina 2001). So which is more important, Cy Young awards or their 80+ career WAR?

Similarly, Smoltz won only 1 Cy Young, never led his league in pitcher WAR -- so which was more important to his HOF induction, the award or his 66 career WAR?

FWIW, Santana is at 51.1 WAR. Is leading his league 3 times in pitching WAR enough to overcome the career WAR difference?

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On 10/22/2021 at 2:56 PM, Zach Hartford said:

Playing on crappy teams definitely shouldn't factor into a HOF induction. Plenty of players that played for bad teams have gotten in. I believe that Cole Hamels also should have a good case of getting into the hall. Tough to take away someone's love for the game!

Should happen does not reverse what does happen. 

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The HOF is a great honor, but the voters can't be counted on to honor deserving players and pass on those who are not deserving. Bert Blyleven is exhibit A. He was third in career strikeouts when he retired. Repeating for emphasis: THIRD!!! ALL TIME!!! That's all the voters should have needed to make him a first-ballot inductee. It was shameful that he had to wait as long as he did.

Based on peak performance, it would seem that Santana should be receiving strong consideration. The blame for this not happening falls squarely on the voters.

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23 hours ago, Brandon said:

I mentioned Clements because the author said every pitcher with 3 Cy Young's is in the hall.  Clements is not.  

Adam Wainright is a good comparable.  Do you think he is a hall of fame?  He was a great pitcher but injuries held him back and he is about 1000 innings shy of enough accomplishments to get in IMO

Wainwright is an interesting comparable, but I'd take Johan every single time. Wainright definitely had setbacks due to injury, missing essentially 4 seasons. But he still had 12 healthy seasons (I'll skip his age-23 year where he had a cup of coffee) and while he was very very good at his peak from 27-32...he doesn't have the same kind of "black type" resume that Johan does. Wainright finished top 5 in Cy Young Voting 4 times (Johan did it 5 times). Wainright never won one, and wasn't robbed in any of those years (Johan won 2 and 100% should have gotten a 3rd). Wainright never led the league in ERA, ERA+, FIP, or WHIP (Johan topped those categories 13 times). He just doesn't have the same level of dominance that Johan did.

I think Wainright will get some consideration for the Hall because he pitched in 2 World Series, played for the Cardinals, and was a very good pitcher who also had a renaissance in his late 30's, but won't get voted in. He's overlapped with too many pitchers like Kershaw, Scherzer, Verlander, Greinke, Felix Hernandez, etc who are simply better. Wainright was an important pitcher for the Cardinals, but he's not a Hall of Fame pitcher and was never really the best pitcher in baseball.

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On 10/22/2021 at 3:02 PM, Zach Hartford said:

My original argument falls back on the point that he should've won the 2005 Cy Young, and every pitcher that has won 3 Cy Young's is or will be in the HOF. He also pitched at an elite level for more than three years. From 2002-10 his worst ERA+ was 129. He was 3rd in Cy Young voting in 2008, in which he led the league in ERA and IP. 

2002 and 2003 he spent significant time as a reliever (40 out of 72 appearances in relief).  2008 was certainly another really nice year (although he struck out fewer than 8/9), but 2007 was only good-not-great (when viewed in the context of best pitchers of all time), By 2009/2010 he was averaging just over 6 IP/start, while striking out less than 8/9 and 7/9 (respectively).  Further, since your case is built on a hypothetical 3rd Cy, it's worth noting that, by WAR, both Randy Johnson and Ben Sheets had significantly better seasons in 2004 than Santana.  If each league didn't bestow it's own trophy, but there was one award (or two, for the two best pitchers), Santana would not have won a Cy in 2004.

That's what this comes down to--not that Johan wasn't amazing for a few years, but he wasn't amazing enough in those few years/those few years didn't last longer.  HOF is a big deal, and to keep it that way, there have to be guys left out that have a reasonable case to be in.

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  • 1 month later...

I think the simple answer to this question is “because he went to NY.” Hindsight is 20/20, but if Johan had to do it all over again, he almost undoubtedly would have signed an extension and stayed a Twin for his whole career.  A lot could have unfolded differently had he made that choice, including post-season success and a HOF plaque.

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8 hours ago, AlwaysinModeration said:

I think the simple answer to this question is “because he went to NY.” Hindsight is 20/20, but if Johan had to do it all over again, he almost undoubtedly would have signed an extension and stayed a Twin for his whole career.  A lot could have unfolded differently had he made that choice, including post-season success and a HOF plaque.

I suppose that's one '20/20 hindsight if' outcome, but I still think it's doubtful he would have remained a Twin for life. If he had known what would have happened with the Mets, he may have refused the trade to the Mets, or insisted on different usage once he got there that didn't wreck his shoulder. He had to approve a trade, and iirc, a team being able to extend him was part of it. So, if he refused a trade to the Mets, there might have been another team who would have traded for him and extended him. And he'd still have the hindsight on his shoulder and could have insisted on a different course of treatment with another team. Or, he would have finished his contract with the Twins and entered free agency the following off-season; that's another scenario of 'if he had known'. Those are more likely scenarios, imo, if he knew the outcome with the Mets, than him staying a Twin for life. Of course, in the game of 'ifs', him staying a Twin is one possible outcome, but I think it would have been the last possible outcome. Just because Johan may have known his outcome, it doesn't necessarily mean the Twins FO would have behaved any differently and it certainly doesn't mean there was then only one other possible path. And maybe Johan wouldn't have insisted on them trying to trade him (not sure that's accurate, but that was also part of what we were hearing at the time), but that still doesn't preclude in your if scenario that he doesn't hit free agency the following off-season because the Twins were still offering a seriously under-market contract. I think your '20/20 hindsight if' scenario still has a few holes in it. :) 

Yeah, 'if' scenarios are kind of pointless

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On 10/22/2021 at 1:37 PM, Cap'n Piranha said:

 No one is upset David Cone isn't in the HOF, even though he has 33% more WAR than Johan.

David Cone should definitely be in the Hall of Fame. So should Bret Saberhagen and Dave Stieb.

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2 hours ago, DJL44 said:

David Cone should definitely be in the Hall of Fame. So should Bret Saberhagen and Dave Stieb.

If you think those three should be in the hall, the size of the HoF would nearly double in pitchers, I suspect. That would take Cooperstown from the Hall of Fame to the Hall of Very Good. If that's the standard, then players like Cole Hamels, Mark Buerle, and Andy Pettite also deserve entry to Cooperstown.

Johan Santana is a step (or more) above the three you listed in pretty much every regard except longevity... but none of the three had particularly long careers so they don't have even that going for them, either.

Guys like Kevin Brown (who was considerably better than the three you listed) should first sail into the Hall before those guys get in so the list starts becoming *really* long if the bar for entry is lowered that much.

For the record, I think Johan is a borderline case but I wouldn't vote for him if I had a ballot.

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1 hour ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

If you think those three should be in the hall, the size of the HoF would nearly double in pitchers, I suspect. That would take Cooperstown from the Hall of Fame to the Hall of Very Good. If that's the standard, then players like Cole Hamels, Mark Buerle, and Andy Pettite also deserve entry to Cooperstown.

Johan Santana is a step (or more) above the three you listed in pretty much every regard except longevity... but none of the three had particularly long careers so they don't have even that going for them, either.

Guys like Kevin Brown (who was considerably better than the three you listed) should first sail into the Hall before those guys get in so the list starts becoming *really* long if the bar for entry is lowered that much.

For the record, I think Johan is a borderline case but I wouldn't vote for him if I had a ballot.

I do agree that Kevin Brown, Bret Saberhagen, David Cone, Dave Stieb, Mark Buehrle, Andy Pettitte and Cole Hamels (and Tim Hudson) should be in the Hall of Fame. Better than inducting another reliever (Billy Wagner). Those starting pitchers are above the historical standard: Catfish Hunter, Eppa Rixey, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Burleigh Grimes, Herb Pennock. They're also a lot better picks than Jim Kaat or Jack Morris,

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David Cone is definitely a HoF pitcher. 61.6 bWAR, career 121 ERA+, 43.4 bWAR 7 year peak, Cone's 7 year peak was as dominant as Santana, but he hung around a little too long for the career ERA numbers. It's hard to blame him for sticking around, though. He was with 3 World Series Championship teams in his final 4 years with the Yankees. Throwing out his first two partial seasons and his age 37-40 seasons (he sat out age 39), Cone's ERA+ jumps to 131.

Bret Saberhagen was more up and down, but still put together a 58.9 bWAR career. Two Cy Youngs, a World Series Championship where he was the MVP and a career ERA+ of 126. That's a pretty impressive career.

Dave Stieb is another step back from Saberhagen in my opinion. Though his 7 year peak of 44.5 bWAR was great, Stieb never won a Cy Young, never made a significant post season impact, but did manage 56.5 bWAR. He might have made it if his career hadn't essentially been ended at age 32.

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2 hours ago, bean5302 said:

David Cone is definitely a HoF pitcher. 61.6 bWAR, career 121 ERA+, 43.4 bWAR 7 year peak, Cone's 7 year peak was as dominant as Santana, but he hung around a little too long for the career ERA numbers. It's hard to blame him for sticking around, though. He was with 3 World Series Championship teams in his final 4 years with the Yankees. Throwing out his first two partial seasons and his age 37-40 seasons (he sat out age 39), Cone's ERA+ jumps to 131.

I consider Cone a borderline case and I wouldn't vote for him any more than I'd vote for Santana.

But using a seven year peak for both undervalues Santana's utter dominance over a smaller stretch of time. Johan wasn't that good for seven seasons but he was purely dominant for five seasons.

In five seasons, he had one 8+ rWAR season, three 7-8 rWAR seasons, and one 5 rWAR season. Cone can't even touch those numbers through any stretch of his career, as he only posted a 7+ rWAR season once and no 8+ rWAR seasons.

It should be noted that had the Twins not wasted Johan for so long in 2002-2003, we’d probably be having a fairly different conversation about him. 

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