I suppose you can consider this my Hall of Fame preamble, because, inevitably, I will have a lot to say on this toward the end of December. It is a yearly tradition, after all.
So, yes, this is my warmup before I go into robot-mode and churn out 10,000 words.
Let’s start with this. Here are the 10 players I voted for last year:
Glavine, Maddux, and Thomas were all elected. Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and John Smoltz are first-timers this year. So, I can say with confidence that those three will each take a vacant spot, and that will be that.
I was talking with a friend about this, and we agreed on the ballot except for one player. He had Mike Mussina instead of John Smoltz. I didn’t consider this at first. I initially thought that, well, of course Smoltz would get elected on his first ballot. He’s had the “future Hall of Famer” tagline ever since he retired. But the more people I talk to, the more I sense that he won’t get in this year, especially with an overcrowded ballot.
Now, if I could, I would totally vote for Mussina too, but I can’t justify putting him over Schilling or Smoltz. But the Mussina/Smoltz comparison is closer than I thought.
Mussina: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 3562 IP, 785 BB, 2813 SO, 3.57 FIP, 1.192 WHIP, 82.7 WAR, 123 ERA+
Smoltz: 213-155, 3.33 ERA, 3473 IP, 1010 BB, 3084 SO, 3.24 FIP, 1.176 WHIP, 66.5 WAR, 125 ERA+
Smoltz had the benefit of pitching his entire career in the National League (minus eight starts he made with the Red Sox in 2009). Mussina spent eighteen years pitching in the American League East at the height of the steroid era. That’s why Smoltz and Mussina have a similar ERA+, despite a third of a run difference in their career ERA’s. This is why sabermetrics is important, because context matters.
I just think Smoltz was a better pitcher. His peripherals show that – lower FIP, lower WHIP, higher K/9, higher ERA+. He also spent a few years as a closer and was absolutely dominant. And he had an awesome postseason career.
Smoltz (playoffs): 15-4, 41 G, 27 GS, 209 IP, 2.67 ERA, 1.144 WHIP
Mussina (playoffs): 7-8, 23 G, 21 GS, 139 IP, 3.42 ERA, 1.103 WHIP.
I might be wrong on this. Here’s an interesting fact: Smoltz faced a pitcher 928 times, about 6.5% of all batters he ever faced. They hit .101/.130/.117 with 383 strikeouts. Mussina faced a pitcher just 45 times.
If you look at how non-pitchers did against Smoltz and Mussina, it’s very close:
I don’t know, man. I give the nod to Smoltz. Much more to come in the dead of winter.