Former Minnesota Twins and New York Mets ace Johan Santana is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year, and it’s already looking like this may be his last year on the ballot.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner has yet to appear on any of the 15 publicly-released ballots, according to Ryan Thibodaux, a Baseball Hall of Fame ballot tracker. Although this encompasses just about 3.5 percent of all expected ballots, the fact that Santana hasn’t received a single vote yet could spell trouble for even being a Hall of Fame candidate again.
This is another crowded ballot, so Santana could be pushed away from consideration thanks to a ten-player voting limit for BBWAA members.
Candidates need at least five percent of the vote to stay on the ballot next year, meaning that Santana will need to appear on about 21 of the 416 estimated ballots cast. It’s too early to say he won’t get there, but the fact that he hasn’t appeared on a single ballot yet is troubling to say the least.
To be completely honest, Santana’s case for being in the Hall of Fame is a fairly mediocre one: His prime lasted only about five seasons thanks to injuries, and his career totals are far below that of most Hall of Famers. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever get in at this point.
However, for a player who had a five-year run as baseball’s best pitcher to be off the ballot after just one season is absurd. Santana’s Hall of Fame candidacy deserves to be examined and debated for longer than just one year — especially considering that Santana is arguably the best pitcher of the 00s.
Here’s how Santana ranks among all pitchers in the 00s, which I outlined in an article here last season. He’s:
– Second in ERA (3.03). Pedro Martinez was first with a 3.01 ERA.
– Second in WHIP (1.07). Again, Pedro is No. 1 by just a hair (1.04)
– Fifteenth in wins with 118, despite not becoming a full-time starter until 2003.
– Fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.13).
– Sixth in FIP (3.37)
– Eleventh in fWAR (37.6). Again, Santana wasn’t a full-time starter until midway through 2003.
– Third-highest strikeout rate (25.2 percent)
– Second-best batting average against (.219)
– Second-best ERA- (69). Fangraphs considers anything below 70 to be “excellent.”
From 2004-2008, Santana led all pitchers with at least 700 innings in just about every statistical category — and some of them are not even close. His 64 ERA- is eight points higher than the second-best pitcher in that timeframe. So even if you don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer, there should be little argument that his candidacy deserves more than a year on the ballot.
Santana is also one of just 19 pitchers with two Cy Young awards. Of those 19, ten are in the Hall of Fame. Two others, Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay, are locks to be there someday. Roger Clemens would be there if not for PED suspicions. So that’s 13 of 19 two-time winners who will likely be in the Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but correlation in this case should equal at least another season on the ballot.
While Santana’s career stats would put him on the lower end of Hall of Fame pitchers, it should be noted that the lefty has a higher career JAWS than Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford and Dizzy Dean, and more career strikeouts than Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing and Bob Lemon. And nobody in their right mind would argue that any of those old-timers deserved to be off the ballot in year one.
Maybe Johan Santana isn’t a Hall of Famer. To be honest, he probably isn’t, but this is a debate worth having for at least one more ballot cycle.