As stacked as this year’s class was, the 2018 class may have even more stars than the last ballot– or any, for that matter. First-time nominees include Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Jim Thome, Scott Rolen and Johan Santana. Combine this with holdovers from this year’s ballot like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez and Curt Schilling and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a writer who doesn’t use up all ten of his votes. Except for maybe Murray Chass.
Chipper and Thome are bar-none first-ballot guys. They’ll get in. Andruw should definitely get in at some point too, as might Rolen. But of these five first-time nominees, the one that probably has the biggest uphill battle to climb is Santana. In his prime, Santana was more statistically dominant than any other pitcher in his era. But his prime was short-lived, as shoulder injuries ended his days as an ace after the 2010 season.
Despite this, Santana’s dominance during his prime was unquestionably a Hall of Fame talent. There was a five-year stretch where he was bar-none the best pitcher in baseball, and put up stats that few could even dream of putting up in the hitter-heavy 00s. According to Fangraphs, here’s how he stacked up with all starting pitchers with at least 1,000 innings in the 00s:
– Second in ERA (3.03). Pedro Martinez was first with a 3.01 ERA.
– Second-best WHIP (1.07). Again, Pedro is No. 1 by just a hair (1.04)
– 15th 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)
– 11th 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.”
And from 2004-2008, he leads all pitchers with at least 700 innings in just about every major statistical category. In fact, his stats during that period are some of the most eye-popping you’ll ever see for a pitcher.
He went 86-39 with a 2.82 ERA and 64 ERA-, struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings and boasted a 4.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He led his league in ERA and strikeouts three times during that five-year span, and led in WHIP four times.
It’s hard to deny someone who was that dominant for a five-year stretch a plaque in Cooperstown.
A comparable player currently in the Hall of Fame, although Santana wasn’t as dominant as this legend was, would be Sandy Koufax.
Koufax had a short career, but he had a five-year stretch where he was perhaps the most dominant in baseball history. His advanced stats from 1962-1966 are not dissimilar from Santana’s from 2004-2008:
– Strikeout Percentage: Koufax struck out 26.8 percent of the batters he faced. Santana struck out 26.1 percent.
– Strikeouts per Nine Innings: Koufax struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings. Santana struck out 9.3.
– ERA-: Koufax’s ERA- during that span was -60. Santana’s was -64.
– Left on Base Percentage: 81.3 percent of Koufax’s baserunners did not score. The same goes for 79.6 percent of Santana’s.
So the Koufax-Santana comparison is more valid than you might think. Can’t wait to see the hate I get in the comments section for saying that.
Had Santana stayed healthy and pitched well for another couple of years, he’d be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. But that didn’t happen, and thus he will face an uphill battle to get into Cooperstown — and almost definitely won’t get in in 2018. But a few years down the road, hopefully he gets in, because he truly has HOF-worthy numbers.
Oh, and he brought the Mets a no-hitter. Not even Tom Seaver could do that.