In this two-part series, I will take a look at current players, and pitchers, that are on a Hall of Fame trajectory. I won’t be discussing guys like Juan Soto or Walker Buehler, as great as they are, they are just too you, as I’ll be focusing on guys that have more a track record that require less projection.
THE POTENTIALS – PITCHERS
*Numbers in parenthesis are the players per 162 game average.
MADISON BUMGARNER (14-11, 3.13 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 in 218 IP)
A three-time World Series champ with one of the better postseason pedigrees of recent memory (8-3, 2.11 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 4.8 K/BB with three shutouts and a save). He’s been a workhorse, but he has only 119 career victories. A two-time Silver Slugger for his offensive prowess, flashes a well-rounded game so few pitchers possess these days.
VERDICT: OUT. As good as he’s been, there just isn’t enough regular season success, and that win total is extremely low for a starting pitcher to be inducted. An All-Time Great for the Giants, but not baseball as a whole.
AROLDIS CHAPMAN (4-3, 2.23 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 14.8 K/9, 34 saves in 66 IP)
Amazing to think, that even with as good as he has been, Chapman never has posted 40 saves in a season. Still, he has averaged 34 saves the last eight years, he’s made six All-Star teams, and he has been as dominant as any pitcher ever with a 14.8 K/9 rate, the best in baseball history (minimum 500-IP). Owns a 1.02 WHIP with a 2.23 ERA over his 550 outings of dominance.
VERDICT: OUT. Needs at least three more years of elite work to be considered. At least. You can disagree and say he’s already in, but compare his career numbers to those of Billy Wagner who isn’t in: 2.31 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 11.9 K/9, 853 games and 422 saves. Even with two years of dominance, Chapman will still be 100 saves behind Wagner with virtually identical ERA/WHIP.
JACOB DEGROM (13-10, 2.62 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 10.3 K/9 in 219 IP)
He’s won back-to-back Cy Young awards and has been a top-10 vote getter four times. There’s no chance he is in the HOF presently, and would need at least five more years like the last two in order to even be considered. At least. He’s thrown just 1,101.2 innings and gone just 66-49. Those numbers simply aren’t close to Hall worthy, even with his dominance per inning pitched.
VERDICT: OUT. Needs years of dominance to come and will be 32 years old in June.
ZACK GREINKE (15-9, 3.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 in 209 IP)
He doesn’t dominate, but he just knows how to pitch. In some respects, you might suggest he’s a modern-day Greg Maddux, but Greinke has always been able to miss bats at a rate Maddux never could (career K/9 for each – Greinke 8.2, Maddux 6.1). Yes, Greinke has dirty hair and does things his own way, but even with declining stuff he’s still an All-Star level performer having made the team 3-years running.
VERDICT: OUT. I think of him as being this generations Whitey Ford. Without a true signature moment, I think Greinke will finish on the outside looking in, though his numbers are close to those of Roy Halladay (per 162: 17-9, 3.38 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 in 232 IP).
FELIX HERNANDEZ (14-11, 3.42 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 in 222 IP)
King Felix was a borderline elite innings eater for years. From 2009-15, his average effort included 15 wins, a 2.83 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 221 punchouts in 228 innings. He won a Cy Young award, finished second twice, and fourth another time. How much differently would he be viewed if he had three Cy Young’s and not just one?
VERDICT: OUT. He was really good, but his last three years hurt his ratios and record (he is 169-136). Limping to the finish line instead of aging gracefully.
KENLEY JANSEN (3-2, 2.35 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 13.3 K/9, 34 saves in 69 IP)
The last eight years he’s saved at least 25 games each season. The last six years its at least 33 saves each season while averaging 40 a campaign. He is first all-time in K/9 rate among pitchers who have thrown 600-innings in his career.
VERDICT: OUT. He’s been amazing, but there’s just not enough of it to date, though he does have 301 saves which are 28 more than Chapman.
CLAYTON KERSHAW (17-7, 2.44 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 in 224 IP)
The best lefty in baseball during his career. Three Cy Young’s. Five ERA titles. Eight All-Star nods. A Pitching Triple Crown (2011). A career ERA+ of 157 which is second in baseball history.
VERDICT: IN. Period.
CRAIG KIMBREL (4-3, 2.08 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 14.6 K/9, 42 saves in 67 IP)
Owns a 14.61 K/9 rate, the highest ever in baseball history for a pitcher with 550-innings pitched. A 7-time All-Star, he dominated for nine years before his catastrophic blow up last season. He led the league in saves each year from 2011-14, averaging 46, and he’s just four saves from 350 with a 2.08 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.
VERDICT: OUT. I say he needs to get to 400 saves, and he’s currently at 346. He’s closer than Chapman.
JON LESTER (16-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.4 K/9 in 210 IP)
From 2008-19 he’s failed to win 11 games just once, and he’s 10 short of 200 victories. Never led the league in ERA, WHIP, innings pitched or strikeouts. In fact, his only Black Ink includes once in wins (18 in 2018), once in winning percentage (.792 in 1016) and once in hits allowed (last season with 205 in 171.2 IP).
VERDICT: OUT. He’s one of the modern day best at compiling, but there’s simply not enough elite work on his ball card.
DAVID PRICE (16-9, 3.31 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 8.8 K/9 in 218 IP)
From 2010-16, he led baseball in innings pitched, made the All-Start team five times, won a Cy Young award, finished second twice and sixth once. Like King Felix, how different would his resume look with three Cy’s? He’s got an impressive winning percentage of .652 (150-80), but I don’t think many have ever looked at him and thought HOF.
VERDICT: OUT. He certainly belongs in the Hall of Very Good, and likely didn’t get his due from many over the years.
CHRIS SALE (109-73, 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11.1 K/9 in 204 IP)
No one in baseball history who has thrown 1,100 innings as a better K/9 than Sale who is at 11.08 over 1,692.1 innings. When on the bump, Sale has been as an elite producer as we’ve seen in the 21st century. However, he’s never won a Cy Young award, and that has drastically changed his outlook in many eyes (as well as the fact that some folks continue to body shame him for being skinny). Remarkably, and I don’t use that word lightly here, Sale has never won the Cy Young award but he has finished in the top-6 each of the last 7-years. The last six years, it’s been a top-5 finish every single year. A run of dominance like that is special.
VERDICT: OUT. He’s 31 years old now, and will miss the season with Tommy John surgery. He will need another five years of impressive work as his career numbers, like 109 victories, just aren’t enough.
MAX SCHERZER (16-8, 3.20 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 over 216 IP)
A gritty competitor, Max has won three Cy Young Awards while finishing in the top-5 in the voting in 7-straight years. In 4-of-5 seasons he’s struck out at least 268 batters, and in those five years he’s averaged 274 punchouts with a 2.74 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.
VERDICT: IN. He’s actually much closer to Sale that most folks likely think. Both have dominated. Both have been elite year after year. The separating factor are the Cy Young awards and the 61 extra victories, thanks to Scherzer having thrown 200-innings in 6-of-7 seasons.
JUSTIN VERLANDER (17-10, 3.33 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9.1 K in 224 IP)
He’s married to swimsuit model, who isn’t as hot as some think, and pumps effortless 97 mph cheese at 37 years of age. He’s also won two Cy Young awards years apart, in 2011 and 2019, and he’s up to 225 victories and 3,006 punchouts over 2,982 innings. The strikeouts have always been there thanks to the innings, and his 9.1 K/9 rate is historically impressive, though clearly behind others of his era. He’s also a bit more of a compiler than most think with two seasons of an ERA over 4.50 and four years with a WHIP of higher than 1.30 including two at 1.40, a hideous level.
VERDICT: IN. I don’t have any problem with him being elected, though if someone didn’t vote for him, I wouldn’t castigate them for that decision.