Roy Oswalt and the Incredibly Strict Hall of Fame Standard for Pitchers

Feb 12, 2014 by Adam Darowski

On Tuesday, Roy Oswalt announced his retirement after a spectacular (and perhaps under-appreciated) big league career. He joins Roy Halladay, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte among star pitchers who retired this offseason and will appear on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot.

Where does Oswalt rank among post-strike pitchers? How does that group rank as a whole? Here is a list of starting pitchers who began their career in 1995 or later, by Hall Rating:

Roy Halladay: Photo Credit

Four of the top six retired this offseason. Johan Santana is far from a sure thing to return and could conceivably join the list, too. And I’ll tell you—when I saw Tim Hudson’s injury last season, I assumed he was finished, too. So glad he’s coming back. CC Sabathia rounds out the 100+ Hall Rating hurlers.

Are any of these pitchers going to get into the Hall of Fame? Rivera will stroll in without a problem. But I don’t think anyone else stands a chance.

When Bert Blyleven was inducted in 2011, he was the first starting pitcher to be inducted since Nolan Ryan in 1999. Despite a 188 Hall Rating, it took Blyleven fourteen tries. Yes, Blyleven actually appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot the year before Ryan did.

Just this past January, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were voted in. And that’s great—they totally deserve it. Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson will easily gain induction in 2015 with John Smoltz perhaps taking a couple years to join them.

But then we’re in for another ridiculous drought.

Perhaps Billy Wagner or (more likely) Trevor Hoffman will be successful when they hit the ballot in 2016. In between Ryan and Blyleven, the BBWAA did select three relief pitchers—Dennis Eckersley (who I consider a starter, but voters didn’t), Rich Gossage, and Bruce Sutter. Meanwhile, worthy pitchers like Dave Stieb, Kevin Brown, David Cone, and Bret Saberhagen came and went without much of a whisper.

Curt Schilling: Photo Credit

You may be thinking “Wait, Roy Halladay absolutely deserves the Hall of Fame!” And you’re right. But he’s not going to get in. If Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina are struggling right now, Halladay stands little chance.

As far as I can tell, the formula for a starting pitcher to be inducted by the BBWAA these days is a Hall Rating of 180 or better or 300 wins. This has been the formula since Fergie Jenkins was inducted in 1991 (23 years ago) with a 155 Hall Rating. Considering only thirteen pitchers in history have a Hall Rating of 180 or better, that’s one hell of a standard.

During that stretch in the 2000s when the BBWAA wasn’t electing starting pitchers, Stieb, Brown (who shared his only ballot appearance with Blyleven’s successful try), Cone and Saberhagen all had Hall Ratings that ranged from 137 (Brown) down to Stieb (114). So, they weren’t just stepping over the 100 Hall Rating line. In fact, Kevin Appier, Chuck Finley, and Orel Hershiser also had Hall Ratings over 100 during that time.

Halladay has a Hall Rating of 137, but Pettitte, Santana, Hudson, and Oswalt are all in the 104–108 range. Is the “borderline tier that is going to be passed over” line dropping from 120-ish to 105-ish? Is it getting harder for pitchers to reach a 100 Hall Rating? It might be.

Clayton Kershaw: Photo Credit

Maybe it’s just another ebb and flow. Martinez, Johnson, Maddux, Glavine, Mussina, and Smoltz came along after a “lull” of elite pitchers. Will CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and Clayton Kershaw blow past the Pettitte and Oswalt crew? Will they get stuck between 100 and 110, too?

People have been mourning the death of the 300-win pitcher long before we stopped seeing 300-game winners. Am I doing the same for the 180-Hall Rating pitcher? Who will be the next one? The most obvious answer is Kershaw. But if it’s not him, then who?

And what does this mean for Oswalt? If he was one of the very best starting pitchers of his era, shouldn’t he be a Hall of Famer? Is Halladay his only close peer who stands a chance?

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