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


Zach Hartford
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On 10/22/2021 at 2:57 PM, Zach Hartford said:

He had a 17 strikeout game with the Twins and threw a no hitter with the Mets. I would say those are pretty signature moments. 

By that standard, Eric Milton should be in the hall of fame. He had a 13-strikeout game and threw a no-hitter, and they were even the same game!

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4 hours ago, DJL44 said:

Better than inducting another reliever (Billy Wagner).

To touch on another recent subject about DHs being in the HoF, I ask "why?"

Why do we look so down at one position of baseball history and so eagerly promote another?

Joe Nathan is a better Hall of Fame candidate than Petitte, as is probably Wagner. Are we just recording counting stats or are we looking at legendary performance?

Stop using WAR as worthiness and start looking at peer performance.

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11 hours ago, Squirrel said:

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

I just think Johan might have regrets looking back.  Does he ever think—I could have signed for $20mm/per year to stay with the Twins and stayed with this organization that I liked (and still like) my whole career - and if I had done so, my career might have turned out quite differently in many respects.

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4 hours ago, DJL44 said:

Blame the idiot sportswriters. He was the best pitcher in baseball in 3 consecutive seasons but they kept giving the award to the wrong guy.

I'm assuming you're talking about 1983-1985. Stieb was excellent (in results at least), but there were starters as good or better than Stieb in each one of those years. It just depends on what metrics you're going to use. Looking back on it with modern metrics, Stieb probably deserved the Cy Young in 1984, but he wasn't leaps and bounds ahead of Blyleven or Boddicker. I don't see a year where Stieb was obviously robbed. Just my opinion.

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4 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

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. 

The Hall of Fame values career production as well as burst production. I think you're probably right about Santana being an obvious HoF case if he was used exclusively as a starter in 2002-2003. Santana was the best starter in baseball at one point, and I believe he'd have made the HoF if the Mets hadn't shut him down early for minor arm issues he could have pitched through for 2 seasons as well. I actually think Santana would absolutely still be on the ballot if it wasn't for the logjam created by this PED crap.

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8 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Joe Nathan is a better Hall of Fame candidate than Petitte, as is probably Wagner. Are we just recording counting stats or are we looking at legendary performance?

Stop using WAR as worthiness and start looking at peer performance.

Joe Nathan and Andy Pettitte played the EXACT SAME POSITION - pitcher. They ARE peers. Andy Pettitte is ridiculously more qualified for the Hall of Fame than Joe Nathan (especially if you consider postseason performance). Pettitte pitched 2500 more innings than Nathan. Nathan has 4 seasons of 3+ WAR and none above 4. Pettitte has 9 seasons of 3+ WAR and a best season of 8.4 in 1997. Pettitte pitched 277 postseason innings with a 3.81 ERA. Joe Nathan pitched 10 postseason innings with a horrible ERA of 8.10.

Relief pitchers are guys who couldn't hack it in the starting rotation. Almost none of them contribute more than the 4th starter during a baseball season. It drives me crazy that people want to pass over the BEST pitchers - the ones who can get players out for 5-6 innings at a time and instead induct the players who failed at starting and ended up in the bullpen. There are at least 100 pitchers I would have in line for the Hall between Pettitte and Nathan.

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3 hours ago, DJL44 said:

Joe Nathan and Andy Pettitte played the EXACT SAME POSITION - pitcher. They ARE peers. Andy Pettitte is ridiculously more qualified for the Hall of Fame than Joe Nathan (especially if you consider postseason performance). Pettitte pitched 2500 more innings than Nathan. Nathan has 4 seasons of 3+ WAR and none above 4. Pettitte has 9 seasons of 3+ WAR and a best season of 8.4 in 1997. Pettitte pitched 277 postseason innings with a 3.81 ERA. Joe Nathan pitched 10 postseason innings with a horrible ERA of 8.10.

Relief pitchers are guys who couldn't hack it in the starting rotation. Almost none of them contribute more than the 4th starter during a baseball season. It drives me crazy that people want to pass over the BEST pitchers - the ones who can get players out for 5-6 innings at a time and instead induct the players who failed at starting and ended up in the bullpen. There are at least 100 pitchers I would have in line for the Hall between Pettitte and Nathan.

Fun fact: Joe Nathan, in those meager innings that apparently didn't matter, had a much higher career WPA than Andy Pettitte (Nathan is 40th in MLB history in pitcher WPA and 4th in reliever WPA, actually).

People underrate just how effing good Joe Nathan was in his career. The guy had an ERA+ just over 150.

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10 minutes ago, DJL44 said:

WPA rewards context, not production

That's not really true, though, especially over a career. If a guy has the fourth highest WPA in the history of relievers and did it under 1,000 career innings pitched, he's a damned good reliever, one of the best in baseball history. Nathan, at 40th career WPA in history, is actually the first pitcher on the list under 1,000 IP. Next on the list under 1,000 IP is... you guessed it, Billy Wagner. 

A guy can luck into a season of high WPA (Tyler Duffey in 2021, for example) but not over a 10+ year career. A WPA that high requires sheer dominance over a career and Nathan's stats back up that dominance (career ERA+ of 151, IIRC).

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24 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

That's not really true, though, especially over a career. If a guy has the fourth highest WPA in the history of relievers and did it under 1,000 career innings pitched, he's a damned good reliever, one of the best in baseball history. Nathan, at 40th career WPA in history, is actually the first pitcher on the list under 1,000 IP. Next on the list under 1,000 IP is... you guessed it, Billy Wagner. 

A guy can luck into a season of high WPA (Tyler Duffey in 2021, for example) but not over a 10+ year career. A WPA that high requires sheer dominance over a career and Nathan's stats back up that dominance (career ERA+ of 151, IIRC).

If Joe Nathan had only pitched the first inning his entire career his WPA would be a LOT lower. WPA rewards pitching the 9th inning as if runs in that inning count more than runs in the first inning.

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I agree that WPA is a good stat to look at. When you need production, and the game is on the line, who do you want playing? In football, they talk about low leverage garbage time making some teams, players or game performances look better than they are.

WPA is about production when it matters. Miguel Sano is a good example. His fWAR was poor at 0.4, but his batting results looked okay for the year. His WPA, though... well, that's a different story with -1.73. Like most fans who follow the Twins know, Sano is an automatic out when the other team needs it. Slider, down and away, strike 3.

In general, I do think most relievers are guys who couldn't make it as starters, but in many cases, I also believe teams held pitchers in the relief position when they could have potentially been starters. Johan Santana is a good example in 2002-2003 as noted above. Tom Smoltz being a reliever for 4 years as well. Joe Nathan averaged 3 bWAR per season as a reliever during his best 7 years. 3 WAR? That's like a middle rotation starter, but in only 1/3 the innings.

In any case, players don't often choose the position the play. Teams choose it for them, but I do see some value in saying a really, really legendary LOOGY doesn't get in. There has to be some sort of value contribution. Joe Nathan's WPA is his proof of value, beyond simply being one of the best closers in baseball history. There is a stat which is essentially just for closers in modern baseball called "saves." The reason we have starters who are throwing 100mph and have 12K/9 today is because relief pitchers are waiting to take over when the starter has dead arm after 5 innings now.

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5 minutes ago, DJL44 said:

If Joe Nathan had only pitched the first inning his entire career his WPA would be a LOT lower. WPA rewards pitching the 9th inning as if runs in that inning count more than runs in the first inning.

Are you seriously arguing a 0-0 game in the first inning is the same as a 3-2 game in the bottom of the 9th or a 3-2 game with 2 outs in the 8th and 2 runners on when you go to your closer early?

Leverage is based on the idea of all runs are not equal, and they most certainly are not equal. 

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2 hours ago, bean5302 said:

Are you seriously arguing a 0-0 game in the first inning is the same as a 3-2 game in the bottom of the 9th or a 3-2 game with 2 outs in the 8th and 2 runners on when you go to your closer early?

Leverage is based on the idea of all runs are not equal, and they most certainly are not equal. 

It's exactly the same for the pitcher. It isn't harder to prevent runs in the 9th inning than it is in the first inning. Why should a pitcher get credit for how he is used by his manager?

Quote

 Joe Nathan averaged 3 bWAR per season as a reliever during his best 7 years. 3 WAR? That's like a middle rotation starter

At least we agree on this - at his best Joe Nathan was about as valuable as a middle rotation starter. How many middle rotation starters should we put in the Hall of Fame?

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It's a near absolute acceptance that teams employ different strategies in close games, especially late in the game where a single run can lead to a guaranteed win. WPA seeks to quantify a particular player's direct contribution to wins. Leverage matters which is why you would lose your mind if in the 9th inning the Twins' manager was bringing in a middle reliever in a close game. After all, WPA doesn't really matter and the difference so Gardy maybe should have been calling Bobby Keppel's name to close out the playoff games in 2009 rather than Joe Nathan. The difference in performance between those two guys over a single inning is miniscule. Nathan had 1.9 fWAR in 70 games. Keppel had 0.0 fWAR in 37 games. So, like 0.03 fWAR per game.

Joe Nathan's record in 2009 was 2-2 with 47 saves and 5 blown saves. By your logic, Bobby Keppel and his 0.0 fWAR would have saved 45 games and blown 7 saves. Still a great season.

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6 hours ago, bean5302 said:

It's a near absolute acceptance that teams employ different strategies in close games, especially late in the game where a single run can lead to a guaranteed win. WPA seeks to quantify a particular player's direct contribution to wins. Leverage matters which is why you would lose your mind if in the 9th inning the Twins' manager was bringing in a middle reliever in a close game. After all, WPA doesn't really matter and the difference so Gardy maybe should have been calling Bobby Keppel's name to close out the playoff games in 2009 rather than Joe Nathan. The difference in performance between those two guys over a single inning is miniscule. Nathan had 1.9 fWAR in 70 games. Keppel had 0.0 fWAR in 37 games. So, like 0.03 fWAR per game.

Joe Nathan's record in 2009 was 2-2 with 47 saves and 5 blown saves. By your logic, Bobby Keppel and his 0.0 fWAR would have saved 45 games and blown 7 saves. Still a great season.

I would be mad at Ron Gardenhire, not Bobby Keppel, if they decided not to use Joe Nathan in a close game. WPA measures whether the manager is putting the right pitcher in the game. It doesn't measure the performance of the pitcher. It also doesn't measure defensive contribution at all. It is a junk stat when assessing pitcher performance. It's the flip side of GWRBI.

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1 hour ago, DJL44 said:

I would be mad at Ron Gardenhire, not Bobby Keppel, if they decided not to use Joe Nathan in a close game. WPA measures whether the manager is putting the right pitcher in the game. It doesn't measure the performance of the pitcher. It also doesn't measure defensive contribution at all. It is a junk stat when assessing pitcher performance. It's the flip side of GWRBI.

It's weird how WPA is a junk stat that doesn't measure performance but the career WPA for pitchers looks like this. For the record, I don't use WPA for anyone except relievers for the explicit reason that it's literally the job of a reliever to come in and give their team the best chance of winning possible when the game will be decided. Over the course of a career, WPA begins to align very closely with the quality and performance of a pitcher, as you can see from the following list.

Rank Player (yrs, age) Win Probability Added (WPA) IP Throws
1. Lefty Grove+ (17) 82.99 3940.2 L
2. Roger Clemens (24) 77.75 4916.2 R
3. Greg Maddux+ (23) 59.46 5008.1 R
4. Warren Spahn+ (21) 57.56 5243.2 L
5. Mariano Rivera+ (19) 56.59 1283.2 R
6. Tom Seaver+ (20) 56.43 4783.0 R
7. Pedro Martinez+ (18) 53.75 2827.1 R
8. Randy Johnson+ (22) 53.20 4135.1 L
9. Carl Hubbell+ (16) 46.50 3590.1 L
10. Clayton Kershaw (14, 33) 45.68 2454.2 L
11. Jim Palmer+ (19) 45.45 3948.0 R
12. Bob Feller+ (18) 42.81 3827.0 R
13. Mike Mussina+ (18) 40.61 3562.2 R
14. John Smoltz+ (21) 40.51 3473.0 R
15. Pete Alexander+ (20) 40.10 5190.0 R
16. Bob Gibson+ (17) 39.06 3884.1 R
17. Roy Halladay+ (16) 38.03 2749.1 R
18. Whitey Ford+ (16) 37.04 3170.1 L
19. Gaylord Perry+ (22) 35.94 5350.0 R
20. Justin Verlander (16, 38) 35.91 2988.0 R
21. Zack Greinke (18, 37) 35.65 3110.0 R
22. Tom Glavine+ (22) 35.52 4413.1 L
23. Curt Schilling (20) 35.27 3261.0 R
24. Dazzy Vance+ (16) 34.67 2966.2 R
25. Ted Lyons+ (21) 34.52 4161.0 R
26. Stan Coveleski+ (14) 34.27 3082.0 R
27. Billy Pierce (18) 34.21 3306.2 L
28. Trevor Hoffman+ (18) 34.15 1089.1 R
29. Nolan Ryan+ (27) 34.04 5386.0 R
30. Juan Marichal+ (16) 34.03 3507.0 R
31. Sandy Koufax+ (12) 34.02 2324.1 L
32. Robin Roberts+ (19) 33.86 4688.2 R
33. Kevin Brown (19) 33.55 3256.1 R
34. Don Sutton+ (23) 33.44 5282.1 R
35. Max Scherzer (14, 36) 33.35 2536.2 R
36. Rich Gossage+ (22) 32.51 1809.1 R
37. Walter Johnson+ (21) 32.04 5914.1 R
38. Wilbur Cooper (15) 31.27 3480.0 L
39. Dennis Eckersley+ (24) 30.85 3285.2 R
40. Joe Nathan (16) 30.60 923.1 R
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On 12/18/2021 at 10:57 PM, Brock Beauchamp said:

To touch on another recent subject about DHs being in the HoF, I ask "why?"

Why do we look so down at one position of baseball history and so eagerly promote another?

Joe Nathan is a better Hall of Fame candidate than Petitte, as is probably Wagner. Are we just recording counting stats or are we looking at legendary performance?

Stop using WAR as worthiness and start looking at peer performance.

If I had to choose Johan Santana (12 years), Andy Petitte (18) or Joe Nathan (16) it seems obvious is the best pitcher.

Not sure how you can say that guy that saved 377 games and pitched less than a 1000 innings and wasn't even a good major league relief pitcher until he was 28 years old is a better candidate then a guy that won 256 games and pitched close to 4 times as many innings. By the time Petitte was 28 he had won almost 100 games and pitched in 1000 innings.

Nathan was a great, great closer 7 years (6 dominant years in a row), good for 3, serviceable for 1, and not good for 5.

I love Joe Nathan as a Twin, but that is no way is HOF worthy IMO. To me for a relief pitcher needs to be that great for much, much longer, which is why I wouldn't have put Hoffman in either.

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24 minutes ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

If I had to choose Johan Santana (12 years), Andy Petitte (18) or Joe Nathan (16) it seems obvious is the best pitcher.

Not sure how you can say that guy that saved 377 games and pitched less than a 1000 innings and wasn't even a good major league relief pitcher until he was 28 years old is a better candidate then a guy that won 256 games and pitched close to 4 times as many innings. By the time Petitte was 28 he had won almost 100 games and pitched in 1000 innings.

Nathan was a great, great closer 7 years (6 dominant years in a row), good for 3, serviceable for 1, and not good for 5.

I love Joe Nathan as a Twin, but that is no way is HOF worthy IMO. To me for a relief pitcher needs to be that great for much, much longer, which is why I wouldn't have put Hoffman in either.

For the record, I wouldn't vote any of them in, I just think Nathan has a strong-ish case due to his dominance in comparison to other relievers of his era (and baseball history, frankly).

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48 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

It's weird how WPA is a junk stat 

RBI correlates very well to players who have a high slugging percentage. It's also a junk stat because it adds noise to the data and there is a readily available stat (slugging percentage) that is much better available. Why would you use WPA when you can use PWAA instead? PWAA doesn't give you garbage results saying Trevor Hoffman is a better pitcher than Walter Johnson.

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4 hours ago, DJL44 said:

...WPA measures whether the manager is putting the right pitcher in the game. It doesn't measure the performance of the pitcher...

Right, the pitcher who contributes to the most to winning the game.

Maybe no players should be in the Hall of Fame at all? The managers are the ones who decided to play them, after all. Actually, that proves Dave Stieb is actually just a scrub. His managers are the ones who deserve the credit for playing the bum. This all works out because Bobby Cox is in the Hall of Fame like he deserves for those cy young quality years of Dave Stieb. No need to feel bad. The guy who was behind all the performances got the credit... and yes, I'm obviously enjoying the ridiculous argument I'm making right now, haha.

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