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A Baseball Blog - Scientific and Speculative Thoughts from Third Base

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Best Pitchers 27 and Under, and the Hall: A Continuation of Yesterday's Two Ideas

The other day, I looked at Hall of Fame precedent and young hitters. The article is here, but long story short, you can already say with over 60% certainty* that Ryan Zimmerman will be a Hall of Famer (but go check it out for the reasoning).

*Not accounting for the BBWAA’s bias against third basemen, of course.

I figured,then, why not try it with the pitchers? I again looked at Baseball-Reference’s Play Index for Hall of Fame pitchers from the ages of 20 to 27 (from 1901 on), then looked at how today’s aces compared.


Age 20-20 Hall of Famers, median of 1.55

Only two pitchers in 2012 were 20 and under an worth mentioning: Tyler Skaggs, who was worth -0.3 WAR in 29.1 innings, and Dylan Bundy, who was worth 0.1 in 1.2 innings. Bundy is only 19, though, so check back after this season.


Age 21-28 Hall of Famers, median of 2.85

Again, no one measures up to this mark yet. However, Shelby Miller pitched 13.2 innings, and was worth 0.5 bWAR, giving him the biggest head start on 2013.


Age 22-35 Hall of Famers, median of 4.2

And, we finally have our first legitimate success. Madison Bumgarner, in parts of four seasons, has been worth 6.5 bWAR, giving him a nice buffer on the Hall of Fame median for 22-year olds. No other active 22-year olds are more than half way to 4.2. It would make sense that pitchers are lagging compared to position players, as most don’t reach the majors as quickly.


Age 23-40 Hall of Famers, median of 5.5

Only one 23-year old has crossed the 5.5 WAR mark, and it isn’t Stephen Strasburg (although, at 5.1, his inning limit could be seen as the reason why). It’s actually Chris Sale. In his first year starting, he managed 5.7 WAR, putting him at 9.0 for his career.


Age 24-44 Hall of Famers, median of 8.1

There’s Clayton Kershaw, and then there’s everyone else. At 24, Kershaw has already amassed 23.7 WAR in addition to a Cy Young, almost three times the Hall of Fame median for his age. In addition to Kershaw, Trevor Cahill (9.9) and Mat Latos (8.6) clear the mark, with Jhoulys Chacin (8.0) just missing. Also worth a mention are Neftali Feliz (6.8) and Craig Kimbrel (6.2).


Age 25-51 Hall of Famers, median of 10.1

The top 25-year old pitcher is Jeremy Hellickson, at only 6.9 WAR. Not much reason to dwell here.


Age 26-53 Hall of Famers, median of 15.2

Felix Hernandez is the Clayton Kershaw of the 26-year olds. At 31.5 WAR, he already doubles the target Hall median. No one else can even claim to match it, although Cy Young winner David Price just missed at 14.3. The rest of the best includes Johnny Cueto (13.4), Yovani Gallardo (12.3), Jair Jurrjens (10.3), and Gio Gonzalez (10.3).


Age 27-53 Hall of Famers, median of 18.9

Once again, only one player clears the limit-Matt Cain, who finished 2012 with 29.2 WAR. The next two closest pitchers are John Danks (18.1, which kind of caught me off guard) and Chad Billingsley (15.5).


Now comes the second part of the study; what does this mean? What percentage of players that have historically cleared these marks have gone on to Cooperstown?

To calculate that, I looked every pitcher who had matched the median historically, then subtracted out players not eligible for the Hall yet and players still on the ballot. From that, I compared the number of Hall of Famers to the remainder.

I would imagine that, due to the injury risks for pitchers and such, the certainty of young pitchers is much lower than it was for young hitters, but we shall see.

20: 10 Hall of Famers, 10 matched or topped 1.55 WAR
54 players matched or topped it
8 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
10/46=22%

21: 28 Hall of Famers, 14 matched or topped 2.85 WAR
94 players matched or topped it
14 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
14/80=18%

22: 35 Hall of Famers, 18 matched or topped 4.2 WAR
127 players matched or topped it
23 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
18/104=17%

23: 40 Hall of Famers, 20 matched or topped 5.5 WAR
178 players matched or topped it
38 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
20/140=14%

24: 44 Hall of Famers, 23 matched or topped 8.1 WAR
167 players matched or topped it
35 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
23/132=17%

25: 51 Hall of Famers, 27 matched or topped 10.1 WAR
189 players matched or topped it
39 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
27/150=18%

26: 53 Hall of Famers, 28 matched or topped 15.2 WAR
127 players matched or topped it
33 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
28/94=30%

27: 53 Hall of Famers, 27 matched or topped 18.9 WAR
114 players matched or topped it
26 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
27/88=31%

Well, that’s a big difference from the hitters. I’ve heard that Hall of Fame pitchers generally solidify their case in their 30s, and that appears to be the case. Whereas hitters above the Hall median have a greater-than-even chance by the age of 25, pitchers above the median as late as 27 still don’t even amount to a 1 in 3 chance.

So, where does it pass 50%?

28: 53 Hall of Famers, 27 matched or topped 23.5 WAR
93 players matched or topped it
23 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
27/70=39%

29: 54 Hall of Famers, 27 matched or topped 26.75 WAR
88 players matched or topped it
21 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
27/67=40%

30: 54 Hall of Famers (throwing out two 19th century pitchers who overlapped into 1901), 27 matched or topped 32.75 WAR
61 players matched or topped it
13 haven’t been on a Hall ballot yet
27/48=56%

Finally. It takes until a pitcher is 30 for their chances of being a Hall of Famer to pass 50%, assuming they’re WAR is greater than the Hall’s median for pitchers. So, in the present day, who would this include?

28-53 Hall of Famers, median of 23.5

There are actually several active players who top this mark. Zack Greinke leads them all, with 29.5 WAR to date. Cole Hamels just trails him, at 27.4. Josh Johnson trails them both in innings, but still has a respectable 24.2 WAR. Jon Lester, even with his disappointing 2012, just fell short of the median by 0.1 WAR. Also with a respectable showing is two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, at 21.6.

29-54 Hall of Famers, median of 26.75

The only two pitchers to top this mark are also the only two active 29-year olds of note. Justin Verlander, at 34.2, is significantly ahead of the curve, while Jered Weaver tops the mark by about 1 full win (27.8).


30-54 Hall of Famers, median of 32.75

There are actually no active 30-year old pitchers even close to 32 WAR. Adam Wainwright leads the pack at 18.9, so he has a while to go. It’s worth noting that 31-year old CC Sabathia, after his 2011 season, was at 47.7 WAR.

In fact, the full list of active players who had 32.8 WAR by the end of their 30th season is: Sabathia, Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle, Carlos Zambrano, Justin Verlander, Tim Hudson, and Roy Halladay. King Felix just misses, and will almost certainly match that mark by his age-30 season in 2016.

That eight-person group seems like a good indication of what could happen to pitchers. You have Halladay and Sabathia, looking more and more like future inductees everyday. You have Verlander, who is younger, but probably in the same conversation (and almost Felix). And you have Santana, Oswalt, Buehrle, Zambrano, and Hudson, which... well, one of them might have a resurgent year that rebuilds their Hall case. Maybe Santana will get in for his run of dominance in the mid-2000s. Or maybe Tim Hudson or Mark Buehrle will show their endurance and just keep pitching forever. Or maybe... Well, you can see the 50/50 split is the main point.

It’s very interesting to see the split between position players and pitchers though. Just as in the saying “There’s No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect”, it appears Hall pitchers are much less certain. While Hall hitters can become clear by matching the Hall median as early as the age of 25, pitchers take all the way until they’re 30 to become favorites just by matching the Hall median. It’s just something to keep in mind when pinpointing future Hall members

1 comment:

  1. Love what you did here. This makes me see CC in a new way. It also groups the players who had HOF seasons (Oswalt, etc), but not enough of them.

    ReplyDelete