Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina are going to start to look better and better to the Baseball Writers who vote for the Hall of Fame. With the exception of the mind-blowing numbers of Roger Clemens (who may be hanging around on the ballot for years), no other starting pitcher showing up on the ballot over the next four years has numbers that really even come close to either Schilling or Mussina. A few might have more Wins than Schilling, but almost none have strikeout totals or ERA numbers to compare, and those that have good rates often didn’t play long enough to muster “Hall of Fame career” totals.
On the other hand, we will see Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner show up as Relievers next year, and of course Mariano Rivera in 2019. Rivera is a shoo-in, Hoffman a likely, and Wagner an improbable but not impossible. Besides that, these are the Starting Pitchers (with any kind of claim to being really good) appearing on the ballot during these years:
2016 – No new substantial SP.
2017 – Javier Vazquez and Tim Wakefield
2018 – Johan Santana, Jamie Moyer, Kevin Millwood, Chris Carpenter, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Livan Hernandez
2019 – Roy Halladay, Andy Pettite, Roy Oswalt
Some of you may be surprised to see me dismiss some of the names above as “non-contenders”, but most of these names had relatively brief high-points, and their career totals just don’t add up. Not until Halladay and Pettitte show up in 2019 will anybody’s career numbers look anything like Schilling’s or Mussina’s.
Admittedly, Johan Santana had an incredible high point, and he has Cy Young Awards in his corner. He has a shot, for sure. But, as we all know, he couldn’t sustain that level (or really anywhere near it) for long enough to build his resume. The voters will have to decide in 2018 if his peak was enough like Koufax’s, or not quite good enough.
It’s true that Halladay and Oswalt have lower ERA’s than Schilling and Mussina. But Schilling has 1000k more than Halladay, and 15+ more fWAR, and a handful more Wins. He leads Oswalt by even more in each category. Mussina has 700k more than Halladay, around 15 fWAR more, and 67 more Wins. Again, he leads Oswalt by even more in each category.
Jamie Moyer and Javier Vazquez both have comparable K totals, and Moyer has almost the exact same number of Wins as Mussina. But both players have ERAs well over 4.00, which essentially (though unofficially) eliminates them in the minds of most voters. Neither pitcher accumulated more than 55 fWAR, and never had Award-level peak seasons.
While I don’t think that Andy Pettitte was a better pitcher than some of those I have named, his name will be the next likely SP to get in, and largely on the merits of his postseason performances. He has 19 postseason Wins and 5 Championship rings, which gives him a huge leg up on the rest of the guys likely to still be on the ballot in 2019. He also has very respectable regular season totals: 256 Wins, 68.4 fWAR and an 86 ERA(-). Unless sabermetricians have truly taken over by then, he will get in on his Yankee-mystique alone.
I think Roy Halladay will also eventually get in, but not on his first few ballots. The rest… probably not. This leaves Schilling and Mussina as the pitchers with the “big numbers” (who don’t have the steroid-cloud over their heads).
Past all of this, we may be waiting a while for a dominant, Hall-worthy player to appear on the ballot. C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee will get consideration. People like Tim Hudson. But it might not be until guys like Justin Verlander and Adam Wainwright retire that we see another class of impressive starters join the ballot. And Felix Hernandez might be the next first-ballot SP we see.