Are We Watching Any Hall of Fame Hurlers?

July 31, 2016
A few weeks ago, as the 2016 Hall of Fame weekend was fast approaching, I started thinking about Hall of Famers.  In particular, Hall of Fame pitchers, and, specifically, Hall of Fame starting pitchers.  I wondered how often do we see a Hall of Fame starting pitcher?  How many are typically active at any point in time?  What kind of trends are there?  And who among active pitchers is on track to enshirement?  With the Hall of Fame weekend now behind us, I thought I’d share the results of the research.  Keep in mind that some of this is pure opinion and speculation.  We likely won’t know how this will play out in full for decades into the future.  Still, who wants to wait that long?
 
Looking at the Recent Past
 
Before looking at active starters, let’s look back at recent ballots.  While there weren’t any starting pitchers inducted in 2016, just prior to that we saw the induction of 5 outstanding starters within a two-year period.  In 2014, two starting pitchers went in on their first ballot (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine), and then in 2015 three more went in on their first try (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz).  These 5, along with a few others not yet elected, were the signature starting pitchers from roughly the late ‘80’s through the late 2000’s.
 
Prior to those 2 robust classes, the last starting pitcher to be inducted was Bert Blyleven (2011), who endured 14 ballots before finally being elected.  Prior to Blyleven, there was a pretty long dry spell, as you have to go all the way back to 1999 (Nolan Ryan) to find an MLB starting pitcher who was elected (This excludes Dennis Eckersley, who surely was elected more for his performance as a reliever than as a starter, as well as those who performed in the Negro Leagues). 
 
Ryan retired in 1993, Blyleven in 1992.  The only Hall of Fame pitchers that have been active since 1994 are the 5 mentioned earlier (Maddux, Johnson, Martinez, Glavine Smoltz).  Will there others?
 
Well, at this point, there are 3 other retired MLB starting pitchers still on the ballot from that era that have established a decent chance of being elected – Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Mike Mussina.  They all had solid improvements last year - Schilling had a big leap forward from 39% to 52% in his 4th year on the ballot, Clemens improved from 37.5% to 45% in his 4th year, and Mussina went from 25% to 43% in his 3rd.  All three still have a ways to go to get to the 75% threshold before their time on the writers’ ballot expires, and Clemens in particular may find it particularly challenging to make his way out of purgatory and win over enough voters, but I would bet on all three eventually making it to Cooperstown, even if one or more them have to go in through the Veterans’ Committee route.  If those three make it, that would boost the # of pitchers from that era from 5 to 8.
 
Any other retired starting pitchers from that era that have not yet appeared on a ballot that stand a chance?  Jamie Moyer will be eligible in 2018, and while he’s an intriguing candidate with 269 wins and 25 seasons in the Majors, I don’t see him getting much support.   He was a notable pitcher, but I don’t think enough voters will think of him as a great one.
 
In 2019, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Oswalt will all be eligible.  Oswalt was a good pitcher (career ERA+ of 127), but he basically didn’t do a whole lot after he turned 30, and doesn’t stand a chance. 
 
I do think Halladay will be a solid candidate.  He has solid credentials, including 2 Cy Young awards (one in each league), 2 more runner-up finishes, a perfect game, a postseason no-hitter, an 8-time All-Star, and had several seasons leading the league in various categories ranging from wins to innings pitched to K/BB ratio.  Working against him is that he struggled some with injuries and his career ended a bit abruptly, and his final win total of 203 isn’t very impressive on its own (although, with a 203-105 tally, his .659 winning percentage is among the top 20 figures among retired pitchers).  I think he’ll get in, though I’m not sure it will be on the first ballot.
 
Pettitte will be an interesting candidate, starting with the fact that, in 18 seasons, he was on teams that made the playoffs 14 times and was on 5 World Champion teams, which has enabled him to top the career postseason pitching leader boards in such categories as wins, starts, and innings pitched, but I think he’s got too much working against him.   I think he will be seen as one who was fortunate to be on great teams more so than being one of the primary drivers of the success.  And, of course, there’s the whole PED issue.  Taking it all into account, I think he will be seen as a good, but not great pitcher, and that he will not be elected. 
 
Others coming up over the next several years include Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Kevin Millwood, Tim Wakefield, and Dan Haren.  Again, some interesting pitchers, but I don’t see any of them as Cooperstown-bound.
 
One other name to consider is Johan Santana, who was probably the best pitcher in baseball from 2004-2009, winning 3 ERA titles, 3 strikeout titles, 2 Cy Young awards, plus some other high Cy Young finishes.  He has not pitched in the majors since 2012, but my understanding is that he has not yet retired either.  Just a few months ago, he was still trying yet another comeback.  He’ll be an interesting test case when he comes up for review, whenever that happens to be.  Although, at his best, he was outstanding, it seems unlikely to me that enough writers would elect him based on a 139-78 career record.  I think they would consider his to be a brilliant, but too short, career.  Not saying that I agree with them….just that I suspect that he wouldn’t get enough support.  Guess we’ll see……
 
Others from that era that have already come and gone from the ballot that could re-emerge on a Veterans Committee ballot?  Kevin Brown could get some support, but he was a one-and-done on the writers’ ballot, only getting 2%.  David Cone had a similar fate – one year on the ballot, 4% of the vote.  They both have interesting cases, but the odds are against them.
 
So, let’s speculate that Halladay, Clemens, Schilling, and Mussina eventually make it.  That would make 9 Hall of Fame pitchers from that general era.
 
Historical Results
 
How would that era compare to history?  One of the things I set out to find for this article was how many Hall of Fame starting pitchers do you normally see at a point in time?  I pulled data on Hall of Famers and which seasons they pitched in, and started tallying the results.  First, I had to weed out the Hall of Famers who may have pitched, but who aren’t in the Hall of Fame due to their pitching – this would include the likes of Babe Ruth (who was certainly an excellent pitcher in his day, but obviously it’s not why he’s in the Hall of Fame), George Sisler, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and several others who spent various amounts of time on the mound.  Next, I removed the Hall of Fame relievers Wilhelm, Fingers, Gossage, Sutter, and Eckersley).  By my count, there are 67 pitchers in the Hall of Fame who got there by way of their results while a starting MLB pitcher.
 
A few basic questions and answers:
 
Q: What is the average # of Hall of Fame pitchers active in a given season?
A: About 8.1
 
Q: What was the peak?
A: There have been 2 seasons where there were 15 Hall of Fame starting pitchers active – 1925, and 1966:
 
1925
1966
Pete Alexander
Jim Bunning
Chief Bender
Steve Carlton
Stan Coveleski
Don Drysdale
Red Faber
Whitey Ford
Burleigh Grimes
Bob Gibson
Lefty Grove
Catfish Hunter
Jesse Haines
Fergie Jenkins
Waite Hoyt
Sandy Koufax
Walter Johnson
Juan Marichal
Ted Lyons
Phil Niekro
Rube Marquard
Jim Palmer
Herb Pennock
Gaylord Perry
Eppa Rixey
Robin Roberts
Red Ruffing
Nolan Ryan
Dazzy Vance
Don Sutton
 
Of course, "active" doesn’t necessarily mean they were pitching like a Hall of Famer in that year.  For example, Nolan Ryan wasn’t Nolan Ryan yet in 1966….he was a 19-year old who appeared in a couple of games for the Mets.  I didn’t put any minimum stipulations on the definition….I was merely looking for "active" in a given year.  As you can see, in 1966, several of the Hall of Fame pitchers were winding down their careers (Koufax, Roberts, Ford), some were just getting started (Ryan, Niekro, Palmer, Jenkins, Carlton, Hunter), while the others were more or less in the middle. 
 
Q: What about the valley?
A: Between the years of 1871 and 2009, there has been at least 1 Hall of Fame starting pitcher active in each season.  The lowest seasons I found were 1871 (Al Spalding) and 1878 (John Montgomery Ward), in which only 1 Hall of Fame starting pitcher was active.  Of course, you could argue that Ward shouldn’t count as a "Hall of Fame Starting Pitcher" since he eventually played many more seasons as a position player than he did on the mound.
 
Most of the other low seasons were from the 1870’s as well, with Spalding and Candy Cummings typically being the only Hall of Fame pitchers active at that time.   As you get to the late 1870’s and into the 1880’s, you start to see the numbers increase as the likes of Pud Galvin, Tim Keefe, Mickey Welch, John Clarkson, and Old Hoss Radbourn start to appear.
 
Since the 1900’s, the only season with as few as 2 Hall of Fame starting pitchers active was 1944, with only Hal Newhouser and Early Wynn appearing in that season.  That result, of course, was caused by the absence of several stars for various reasons related to World War II, including the likes of Bob Feller, Ted Lyons, Red Ruffing, Warren Spahn, and Bob Lemon.
 
Q: How has this trended over time?
 
Decade
Average # of Hall of Fame Starting Pitchers per Season
1870s
2.0
1880s
5.2
1890s
5.9
1900s
11.5
1910s
11.1
1920s
12.2
1930s
10.8
1940s
6.0
1950s
7.5
1960s
11.5
1970s
11.4
1980s
7.7
1990s
5.4
2000s
4.7
Grand Total
8.1
 
So, the first few decades were light as the game was still developing, and the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s are a little light on representation for now as we’re still working through candidates like Clemens, Schilling, and Mussina (not to mention Jack Morris, who I think is very likely to be elected by a Veterans’ Committee at some point).  If you take the decades in the middle of the time spectrum, the average is closer to 10 Hall of Famers per year.
 
Looking at Active Pitchers
 
So, over the course of history, it’s not uncommon to have 10 or more Hall of Fame starting pitchers active at a given point in time.  Do we have that many active right now?  Hard to say.   Some look like they’re on a decent path, some could be laying in the weeds, and some could just now be getting started on their legends.  One thing that can be particularly challenging in projecting the Hall of Fame for pitchers is that a lot of them follow very unusual career paths. 
 
For example, when Randy Johnson was 30, very few would have been projecting him as a Hall of Famer.  He was a good pitcher….but through age 30 his career mark was 81-62 with a 3.70 ERA.  However, he was just getting started.  After age 30, he went 222-104 with a 3.12 ERA with 5 Cy Young awards plus 2 more runner up finishes. 
 
Or, on the flip side, there’s Johan Santana.  If you look at Santana through that same (age 30) season, he’s at 122-60 with a 3.12 ERA, 3 ERA titles, 2 Cy Young awards, 2 third-place finishes, and 1 fifth-place finish.  In other words, his Hall of Fame case is looking a whole lot better at that same age than Randy Johnson’s was.  Of course, after that, Santana got hurt and basically lost the balance of his career, despite many attempts to come back. 
 
So, even looking through age 30, it can be very difficult to project what the rest of a pitcher’s career holds.  He could find himself and pitch effectively until age 40 or beyond….or he could throw out his arm on the next pitch. 
 
In any event….let’s review at a few of the more interesting cases among active pitchers to see how they’re shaping up, looking at it by age groups.
 
 
Age 35 & Older
 
 
Bartolo Colon (age 83…..OK, 43)
Colon has certainly had one of the more interesting careers in recent memory.  Six years ago, when he was a mere 37 years of age, he missed the entire 2010 season, and he really hadn’t had a good season since 5 years prior to that, when he went 21-8 for the Angels and won the Cy Young.  His career seemed done.
 
Since then, of course, he’s had a renaissance in his golden years, going 73-56 with a 3.65 ERA.  His K/BB ratios over that time have essentially been the best of his career.  At age 43, he is currently 8-5 with a 3.48 ERA, and just made the All-Star team. 
 
For his career, he’s now 226-159 and a 3.95 ERA, which is higher than any pitcher in the Hall of Fame.  Right now, his Hall of Fame case looks about the same as 2 other pitchers who pitched a long time with relatively high ERAs – David Wells and Jamie Moyer.  He’s had a fascinating career, and I sure wouldn’t expect him to make the Hall, but at this point, who knows?  He’s developed a bit of a folk hero aura, he’s a lot of fun, and he’s still pitching effectively.  Still, I can’t see him appealing to 75% of the voters.
 
C.C. Sabathia (age 35)
Among active pitchers, Sabathia has the highest WAR figures (57.0 rWAR, 62.8 fWAR), and he’s #2 in Wins with 220 (Bartolo Colon has 226).  Sabathia is now 35, and he represents just how quickly the tide can turn.  Through his age 31 year, he looked like he was tracking well with a good chance at the Hall, with a 191-102 record and a 3.50 ERA at that time, and still pitching at an All-Star level.  It wasn’t hard to imagine him posting enough wins to get well into the upper 200’s, and maybe even making a run at 300.  Since then, though, he’s had 4 seasons with only a 28-35 record and a 4.67 ERA, looking very much like a pitcher at the end of the road.  He’s running out of time.  A terrific career, but I think he’ll come up short of the Hall.
 
Jake Peavy (age 35)
Peavy’s career got off to a pretty favorable start, with 1 Cy Young and 2 ERA titles by the time he was 26, and San Diego had made a couple of playoff appearances during that time (although he got hammered in both of his postseason starts in ’05 & ‘06 by the Cardinals).
 
However, after that promising start, very little has gone his way, although he did end up with a couple of championship rings in ’13 with the Red Sox and ’14 with the Giants, although, once again, he had several rough postseason outings (his career postseason record is 1-5 with a 7.98 ERA).  Since his Cy Young season in 2007, he’s gone 76-74 with a 3.85 ERA.  He’s long since given up on any Cooperstown dreams.
 
John Lackey (age 35)
While Lackey has had a distinguished career, with a fair amount of postseason success and an ERA title, he’s well short of Cooperstown consideration.  He has no chance.
 
 
Ages 30 -34
 
Adam Wainwright (age 34)
Wainwright has been terrific, but I think you’d have to consider him a long shot.  From ’09-’14, he was among the top pitchers around – a couple of 20 win seasons, two more with 19 (both of which led the league), and he had two Cy Young runner up finishes plus two more 3rd-place finishes.
 
Wainwright has a couple of things tripping him up, though.  He didn’t become a full time started until age 25, and he’s lost some significant time to injuries, missing the entire 2011 season and nearly all of the 2015 season, plus a good chunk of 2008.  He’s 130-72 with a 3.06 career ERA, and he doesn’t seem like the type that would last long enough to post career numbers that would help his case.  At this point, I think even reaching 200 wins might be a long shot.  I would say he has very little chance to be enshrined.
 
James Shields (age 34)
Not much to see here.  I think it’s best to move along, except to ask a philosophical question.  If your career postseason record is 3-6 with a 5.46 ERA, are you technically allowed to keep the nickname "Big Game James"?
 
Jered Weaver (age 33)
An interesting case.  Career record of 146-89, 3.51 ERA.  Through age 31, he had led the league twice in wins, and had 3 top-5 Cy Young finishes.  However, he didn’t win any, and he’s been trending in the wrong direction over the past couple of years, and doesn’t resemble the force he was before.  He needs to turn it around quickly if he has any hope.
 
Justin Verlander (age 33)
I think this is our first serious contender so far.  He’s still got a ways to go, but he has some solid markers, starting with his memorable 2011 season where he was 24-5, had a league-leading ERA of 2.40, led the league in K’s, and won both the Cy Young (unanimously) and the MVP, becoming the first starting pitcher in 25 years to pull that off.  Those are exactly the kinds of achievements that gets a voter’s attention.  In addition to the one Cy Young award, he also has a 2nd, a 3d, and a 5th.  Even aside from that blockbuster season, he has plenty of "Black Ink", leading the league in various categories such as IP, Winning Percentage, and Strikeouts, as well as leading twice in ERA+, and being named to 6 All-Star teams  In short, he’s a "star".
 
At this point in his career, he’s not pitching at that same level anymore, but he’s 166-103 and a 3.53 ERA, and while the ERA doesn’t seem that impressive on its own, his career ERA+ is 121.  His career record is similar at the same age to Mike Mussina, who has been gaining support in recent Hall of Fame voting.  From this point to the end of his career, though, Mussina posted over 100 wins and ended up with a total of 270.  Will Verlander pitch effectively enough to last another 6 or 7 effective seasons, and maybe end up with more than 250 wins?  I think he has a decent chance.  He’s still pitching well, still striking people out, and I think he will age well.  I don’t see him as a first-ballot kind of guy, and I think he may need to build support over time, but I think he has a good chance.
 
One interesting footnote to his career is that in 2012, the year after his famous 2011 season, he pitched nearly as well.  Here are the two years in summary:
 
Year
W
L
%
ERA
GS
IP
H
HR
BB
SO
ERA+
FIP
H9
BB9
SO9
SO/W
2011
24
5
.828
2.40
34
251
174
24
57
250
172
2.99
6.2
2.0
9.0
4.39
2012
17
8
.680
2.64
33
238
192
19
60
239
161
2.94
7.3
2.3
9.0
3.98
 
2011 was better….but not a whole lot better.  The biggest difference was that Verlander was supported by 4.7 runs per start in 2011, and 4.0 per start in 2012.  He very nearly won the Cy Young anyway in 2012 – he lost an extremely close race to David Price, who was 20-5, 2.56, but Verlander pitched more innings, had more K’s, and had a better ERA+.  If Verlander had managed to pull off 2 Cy Youngs in a row, his case would be even better.  Even so, I think his record will hold up well.
 
Zack Greinke (age 32)
Another interesting case.  If we do the "gut" approach, I would have to say "no" to the concept of Greinke as a Hall of Famer.  But, he bears closer scrutiny.
 
For starters, he’s in a good place with his career rWAR figures, not that rWAR necessarily means much to Hall of Fame elections at this point, although by the time Greinke comes up for consideration, it’s conceivable that more and more voters will place additional emphasis on it.  Greinke is currently at 54.8 (although more than 3 of that is hitting, as he’s pretty handy with the bat), and you can easily see him getting up into the mid-70’s or even higher by the time he’s through.  That’s up in Schilling/Mussina territory, and would be a favorable result for those that like to look at that measure.  By way of reference, if you take out the relievers and others that aren’t really "pitchers", the average rWAR for a Hall of Fame starting pitcher is about 71, and the median is about 63.  So, Greinke, who’s a fan of advanced analytics himself, does well by that measure.
 
Here’s another.  ERA+, as you know, is the relative measure of a pitcher’s ERA vs. league average and also adjusted for a pitcher’s ballpark.  A figure of 100 indicates average, greater than 100 means above average.  A figure of 200 implies that a pitcher’s ERA is essentially twice as good as the average.
 
Here are the players that have achieved an ERA+ of 200 or more in more than one season.  It’s a short list:
 
Name
Years
Pedro Martinez
5
Walter Johnson
4
Roger Clemens
3
Zack Greinke
2
Greg Maddux
2
Christy Mathewson
2
 
Greinke’s qualifying seasons were 2009 (2.16 ERA, 205 ERA+) and in 2015 (1.66 ERA, 222 ERA+).  In both seasons, he led the league in both ERA and ERA+.  In 2009 he won the Cy Young, and in 2015 he was a close runner up to Jake Arrieta.
 
As a quick sidebar….why exactly did Arrieta win the award last year?  Arrieta had a great year, but Greinke had a better ERA, ERA+, rWAR, K/BB ratio.  I think we know why.  Arrieta’s won-lost record was 22-6.  Greinke’s was 19-3.  In Cy Young Award voting, 22-6 looks better than 19-3.  If I had my way, Greinke would currently be the proud owner of 2 Cy Young Awards.
 
In any event, Greinke’s at an interesting point in his career.  He’s at 152-96, with a 3.36 ERA.   And, here’s an interesting comparison between his #1 "Age 31" comp (stats through 2015), who happens to be another pitcher who got his start with the Royals:
 
Player
Yrs
WAR
W
L
WL%
ERA
IP
H
BB
K
K/BB
ERA+
Zack Greinke
12
51.8
142
93
.604
3.35
2,095
1,972
508
1,887
3.71
122
Bret Saberhagen
12
52.9
141
100
.585
3.26
2,228
2,100
421
1,510
3.59
126
 
Very similar indeed.  In addition, Saberhagen won 2 Cy Young awards, and finished 3rd in another.  Of course, Greinke is hoping for a better finishing kick than Saberhagen, who only had a couple more decent seasons before he wrapped it up.  Saberhagen struggled with injuries for much of his career, and did poorly in Hall of Fame voting (1% of the vote in his only appearance on the ballot).  Greinke would have to pitch effectively for several more years to have any hope.
 
Bottom line?  My gut tells me that Greinke, while he may pitch well for several more seasons, isn’t going to appeal to enough voters.  My guess is that he comes up short.
 
Cole Hamels (age 32)
Hamels is a little behind Greinke in career numbers - 132-93, 3.29 ERA, 49.6 rWAR.  But, he has no big awards, no big league leadership in any category.  One thing he does have going for him was his 2008 postseason performance, where he went 4-0 and picked up both the NLCS and World Series MVP’s.  He’s an excellent pitcher, but I think he’ll have to hang on for a long time and post some really good career totals to get enough voters to pay attention.  I don’t see him on a Hall of Fame track.
 
Jon Lester (age 32)
Lester’s at about the same point as Hamels.  In fact, they’re on each other’s top 10 comp lists for career-to-date.  Lester is at 137-83, 3.52, although he’s way behind Hamels in rWAR (36.6).  Like Hamels, Lester also has had success in the postseason, and he’s been on a couple of championship teams, and might just be on another one this year.  But, like fellow lefty Hamels, I just don’t see Cooperstown in his future.
 
Tim Lincecum (age 32)
If you looked at him 5 years ago, there was lot to like….back-to-back Cy Young awards, 4 consecutive All-Star appearances.  But, the last 5 years have been painful to watch, and he’s essentially off the radar.  Unless he has an amazing career renaissance in store, he’s got no chance.
 
Max Scherzer (age 31)
Scherzer’s at 115-68, 3.41 ERA, which at first glance doesn’t seem quite as good a position as either Lester and Hamels.  Scherzer, however, appears to just now be kicking it into gear.  His past 4 seasons (including the 2016 season) have been the best of his career.  In addition, contrary to many of the other pitchers reviewed, Scherzer has had some exceptional highlights. 
 
Obviously, the Cy Young helps, but lots of pitchers have won a single Cy Young.  That, by itself, doesn’t get you in. 
 
However, in 2016, he struck out 20 in a 9-inning game, only the fifth time that’s been done (Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, and Roger Clemens twice). 
 
In 2015, he not only pitched 2 no-hitters (only the 6th to do that), he didn’t walk a batter in either no-hitter, as the only baserunners got on via an HBP and an error.  He came that close to 2 perfect games in the same year. 
 
And, in that 2nd no-hitter, he struck out 17 hitters, and achieved a game score of over 100, a real rarity for a 9-inning game.  In fact, the 104 game score was the 2nd highest ever in a 9-inning game (Kerry Wood had 105 in 1998).  Scherzer also achieved a game score of 100 in yet another game, a one-hitter that he threw (with 16 K’s) against the Brewers in the start just prior to the first no-hitter.  All in all, in 2015 he had a 2-hitter, a 1-hitter, and the 2 no-hitters.
 
So, between the low-hit games and the multiple high strikeout efforts, Scherzer has been generating a lot of attention-grabbing performances.  And, he’s just hitting his stride.  He hasn’t missed any significant time to injury.  Although he has a ways to go, I think he has a good chance to pitch well for a very long time.  I’m starting to like his chances.
 
David Price (age 30)
Price is similar to several others here – He’s won a Cy Young, he has 2 runner up finishes, and he’s won a couple of ERA crowns.  He’s at 113-63, 3.21 ERA, a 5-time All Star.  It’s a good record. 
 
His top 10 comp list through age 29 has a lot of the names we’ve already looked at – Hamels, Lester, Weaver, Scherzer.  I think his chances are better than Hamels, Lester, and Weaver.  Relative to Scherzer…..well, there’s very little to choose from based on career records.  They’re pretty even.  It’s just a gut feel that I think Scherzer’s just hitting his stride and has a better future ahead of him than Price does, and I think Price’s peak is behind him, but I could certainly be wrong about that.
 
Felix Hernandez (age 30)
Now we’re talking.  I really like King Felix’s chances.  He got an early start on his career, finding success even at the tender age of 19.  Now 30, he’s currently at 148-105, with a nifty 3.13 ERA, and a 128 ERA+.  He has a Cy Young, 2 runner up finishes and a 4th-place finish, and 2 ERA crowns.  He’s a 6-time All-Star, and he’s already over 50 in rWAR, and I think he’s likely to get well past 70 by the time he’s through. 
 
I think he has at least another 100 wins left in him and that would get him in the 250 or so range.  He has had to work through an injury this season, and he still has a long ways to go, but I really like how his career has unfolded, although the Mariners have generally not been that good during his time there, which could end up hurting his case.  Still, I like his chances.  He’s still relatively young and already has a lot of achievements in the books.  He’s a star, and though he still has some work to do, I predict he ends up in Cooperstown.
 
Johnny Cueto (age 30)
Cueto is currently 109-72 with a 3.23 ERA.  He’s been a consistently good pitcher, but he’s also had a couple of seasons where he lost some significant time, and he doesn’t seem to be tracking well towards Cooperstown.  No awards yet (although he has a Cy Young runner-up), 2 All Star appearances.  He is having a good year in 2016, and might very well end up with his first Cy Young, but I don’t think he’s Cooperstown-bound.
 
Jake Arrieta (age 30)
Although Arrieta has pitched extremely well these past 3 seasons and he has a Cy Young award to his credit, he’s a real long shot for Cooperstown.  He’s 30 years old, with a 68-42 record and a 3.57 ERA.  His first 5 years were basically worthless, and he’s really behind the curve.  I can’t see him pitching well enough over the balance of his career to make up for that lost time.
 
 
Under 30
 
 
Clayton Kershaw (age 28)
I think out of all of the active MLB pitchers, Kershaw clearly is the most likely to make the Hall of Fame.  It may come down to injuries.  When he’s been healthy, he’s been about as good as you could hope for (at least in the regular season).
 
Technically, he’s not yet eligible, as he has 9 MLB seasons, and you need 10.  For the sake of argument, if he got hit by a bus or if this back injury were a career-ender (which it doesn’t sound like, but just for argument’s sake), he’d have a 125-58 record with a 2.39 ERA, with 3 Cy Young awards, 1 runner-up, 1 third place finish, 1 MVP, and 4 ERA titles.  He has the glossy highlights….he just lacks the "bulk". 
 
Aside from the relievers, the Negro Leaguers, and the likes of Candy Cummings, Hank O’Day, Babe Ruth, and John Montgomery Ward (who are all in for other reasons), the lowest win totals by Hall of Fame pitchers are Dizzy Dean (150), Addie Joss (160), and Sandy Koufax (165).  Kershaw, if his career ended now, would be short of even those figures, but his case would be similar in many ways.  Being a Dodger lefty and stringing together his run of Cy Youngs, an MVP, and ERA titles has certainly brought specific comparisons between Kershaw and Koufax.  He was headed for his best season of all this year until his unfortunate injury (including an unbelievable 16.1:1 K/BB ratio).
 
So, unless his career takes the same path as Santana’s, you’d have to believe Kershaw has already got one foot in the door….and maybe a foot and a half.
 
Madison Bumgarner (age 26)
Bumgarner is now in his 8th season, and is only 26 years old.  He has been consistently very good in the regular season, although he hasn’t had that breakout season where he has taken the league by storm.  He’s been an All-Star 4 straight years, and his ERA’s are always good (between 2.77 and 3.37 every season).
 
What he has been selling, of course, has been legendary postseason outings, especially in the World Series, where he’s 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA (just 1 run in 36 innings), capped off by his memorable 5-inning save (on 2-days rest) in game 7 of the 2014 series.  He has been a key contributor to 3 World Series titles for the Giants, and that will certainly be a big part of his eventual Hall of Fame resume.
 
As to the remainder of his case that is still to come….well, he is only 26, and closing in on his 100th career win.  So far, he’s been very durable and very consistent, and he’s currently having his best season to date (current 2016 ERA is 2.14), and he is certainly one of the contenders for the Cy Young.  He has a long way to go before he gets to the career numbers that we typically see from Hall of Fame starters, but I happen to believe he’ll accomplish that.  I like his chances.
 
Stephen Strasburg (age 27)
Well…he’s certainly famous, and had one of the more anticipated debuts as an emerging prospect.  And, he’s having a great year this year, and he could very well be the NL Cy Young award winner.  But, I think the injuries put him too far behind the curve to have a real chance.  He’s certainly talented, and maybe he ends up surprising me and hangs around forever.   But, at this point, I’d have to say he’s a real long shot.
 
Chris Sale (age 27)
A noted fashion critic and a real "cut-up"…..
 
Sale has been terrific so far, and has been named to 5 consecutive All-Star games.  Although he has no Cy Young awards (yet), the last 4 seasons he has had, in order, a 6th, a 5th, a 4th, and a 3rd, and it wouldn’t be surprising for him to be among the top finishers again this year, as he’s currently tied for the AL lead in Wins, he’s 8th in ERA, he’s 2nd in IP, 6th in K’s, and among the leaders in pitching rWAR.  According to the CY Young predictor on ESPN.com, which uses a method developed by Bill James and Rob Neyer, Sale is currently running 4th among AL candidates.
 
Sale is still relatively young and has pitched very well, but so far he seems to be achieving more notoriety for his off-the-field headlines than his on-the-field accomplishments.  I think he’s going to end up short.
 
 
Wrapping it Up
 
First, here’s a summary table of the active pitchers reviewed in this article, sorted descending by age:
 
Name
Age
W
L
Pct
ERA
ERA+
rWAR
Cy Youngs
ASG
Other Notes
Bartolo Colon
43
227
150
.602
3.94
110
46.8
1
4
 
John Lackey
37
172
134
.562
3.91
110
34.9
0
1
Postseason 8-5, 3.11 ERA, 2 championships
C.C. Sabathia
35
220
137
.616
3.70
117
57.2
1
6
5 top 5 Cy Young Finishes
Jake Peavy
35
152
126
.547
3.62
110
40.1
1
3
 
Adam Wainwright
34
130
72
.644
3.06
130
38.5
0
3
Two CY Young 2nd-places, Two third-places
James Shields
34
132
109
.548
3.79
108
29.6
0
1
 
Jered Weaver
33
146
89
.621
3.51
115
36.1
0
3
3 Cy Young top-5 finishes
Justin Verlander
33
167
103
.619
3.52
121
46.7
1
6
MVP
Jon Lester
32
138
83
.624
3.51
122
36.6
0
4
Postseason 6-6, 2.85 ERA, 2 championships
Zack Greinke
32
152
96
.613
3.36
122
54.8
1
3
2 ERA titles, 1 Cy Young runner up
Cole Hamels
32
132
93
.587
3.29
126
49.7
0
4
Postseason 7-5, 3.03 ERA, 2 postseason MVP's
Tim Lincecum
32
110
87
.558
3.71
105
21.5
2
4
Postseason 5-2, 2.40 ERA, 3 championships
Max Scherzer
31
116
68
.628
3.40
122
35.7
1
4
2 No-Hitters, 20K game
David Price
30
113
63
.642
3.20
124
30.5
1
5
2 Cy Young runner up finishes, 2 ERA titles
Jake Arrieta
30
68
42
.618
3.57
112
18.9
1
1
 
Johnny Cueto
30
109
73
.599
3.23
125
27.7
0
2
1 Cy Young runner up finish
Felix Hernandez
30
148
105
.585
3.13
128
51.0
1
6
2 ERA titles, 2 Cy Young runner up finishes
Clayton Kershaw
28
125
58
.683
2.39
157
53.4
3
6
MVP, 4 ERA titles
Stephen Strasburg
27
68
38
.642
3.04
129
18.3
0
2
 
Chris Sale
27
71
44
.617
2.95
138
29.4
0
5
4 top 6 Cy Young Finishes
Madison Bumgarner
26
95
63
.601
2.94
123
27.9
0
4
World Series 4-0, 0.25 ERA, 3 championships
 
Before coming to any conclusions, let’s also go back to the last 20 years of writers’ votes.  9 starting pitchers have been elected.  Here’s a summary of some of their totals and accomplishments:
 
Name
Inducted
Yrs
All Star Games
rWAR (rounded)
W
L
W-L%
ERA
IP
Cy Youngs
Randy Johnson
2015
22
10
104
303
166
.646
3.29
4,135
5
Pedro Martinez
2015
18
8
86
219
100
.687
2.93
2,827
3
John Smoltz
2015
21
8
66
213
155
.579
3.33
3,473
1
Tom Glavine
2014
22
10
74
305
203
.600
3.54
4,413
2
Greg Maddux
2014
23
8
105
355
227
.610
3.16
5,008
4
Bert Blyleven
2011
22
2
96
287
250
.534
3.31
4,970
0
Nolan Ryan
1999
27
8
84
324
292
.526
3.19
5,386
0
Don Sutton
1998
23
4
69
324
256
.559
3.26
5,282
0
Phil Niekro
1997
24
5
97
318
274
.537
3.35
5,404
0
 
Averages
22
7
87
294
214
.579
3.27
4,544
2
 
The thing that jumps out at me is the win totals of the recent inductees.  Martinez (injuries and essentially being done by age 33) and Smoltz (spent 5 years as a reliever) both ended up in the low 200’s, but the others inducted in the past 20 years have been either over 300 or pretty close (Blyleven).  Martinez and Smoltz had plenty of other accomplishments to hang their hats on, however, as Martinez had 5 ERA crowns and 3 Cy Youngs, while Smoltz tallied over 150 saves and had a stellar postseason record.  In any case, the elections over the past 20 years featured starters who tended to be some combination of the following:
 
  • a 300-game winner (or close to it)
  • a winner of multiple Cy Young awards
  • Low 3’s in ERA
 
That’s been the formula.  Blyleven, Sutton, Ryan, and Niekro never won any Cy Youngs, but they all pitched a long time and posted impressive win totals, among other considerations. 
 
In addition, one of the other things the recently elected pitchers had in common were long careers, with an average of 22 seasons, ranging from 18 (Martinez) up to 27 (Ryan).  In fact, most of them are high on the list of the longest careers amongst Hall of Fame starting pitchers.  Here are the ones with 22 or more years.  They’re mostly of recent vintage, with several of the names we just looked at being prominent:
 
Name
Inducted
Years
Nolan Ryan
1999
27
Phil Niekro
1997
24
Steve Carlton
1994
24
Greg Maddux
2014
23
Don Sutton
1998
23
Early Wynn
1972
23
Randy Johnson
2015
22
Tom Glavine
2014
22
Bert Blyleven
2011
22
Gaylord Perry
1991
22
Red Ruffing
1967
22
Herb Pennock
1948
22
Cy Young
1937
22
 
Will the best of the current crop end up pitching that long?  Did we perhaps get spoiled by some of the recent inductees?
 
Looking at pitchers currently active, it’s hard to find many that seem likely to meet those standards.  Of course, it’s tricky to compare since many of these pitchers still have a lot of their careers yet to be determined.  Still, it’s hard to find anyone in the current crop who figures to reach 300 wins.  That seems to be a level that will be very difficult for any current pitcher to reach.  If they’re going to be inducted, it will probably have to be a case where they meet other criteria, and I would anticipate the best of the current crop tending more towards win totals in the 200-250 range rather than high 200’s and into the 300’s.
 
I just think that’s the direction we’re headed, where pitchers tend not to end up with historically huge win totals.  Just since 2000, we’ve had Cy Young award winners with records like 16-8 (Brandon Webb 2006 and Greinke 2009), 15-7 (Lincecum 2009), 16-9 (Kershaw, 2013), and 13-12 (Hernanez, 2013).  Prior to that, you didn’t see win totals that low among Cy Young winners unless it was a strike season or unless it was won by a reliever.  20-win seasons have not disappeared, of course, but I do think we’re going to see career win totals that aren’t going to impress us as much as the last generation’s did.
 
So, I think it’s quite likely that we’ll see the best of the active pitchers attaining not quite the same heights in terms of career wins, but that shouldn’t doom them.  I think we may see more pitchers than have win totals similar to many pitchers elected 30-40 years ago, pitchers like Bob Gibson (251), Juan Marichal (243), Whitey Ford 236, Catfish Hunter (224), Don Drysdale (209) and Bob Lemon (207), pitchers who didn’t achieve huge win totals, but had other Hall-of-Fame-type attributes that appealed to voters.
 
Keeping in mind that the historical average is about 8 Hall of Fame starting pitchers, if I had to take a stab, I think the following active pitchers will eventually be enshrined:
 
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Felix Hernandez
  • Max Scherzer
  • Justin Verlander
 
In addition, there will probably be others that we haven’t talked about.  We will probably see a couple of very young pitchers (like a Jose Fernandez, a Noah Syndergaard, or a Gerrit Cole, pitchers like that) who are just getting started on their careers that will emerge as serious candidates down the line.  There will probably some veteran pitcher (like Greinke or Price) that will pitch a lot longer and maybe have a better finishing kick than I have projected.  I think that eventually, we’ll see 8-10 pitchers enshrined from this era.  But, I believe those 5, taking everything into account, are the best bets from the active group.
 
It will be many years, of course, before the final results are in.  I’ll check back with you in 2036 to see how it’s coming along.  Keep your calendar open.
 
Thanks for reading.
 
 

COMMENTS (25 Comments, most recent shown first)

mbrucker
I think Arrieta also won the Cy because of the Cubs winning 97 and having the best second half EVER!
3:57 PM Aug 9th
 
bgorden
Another reason Arrieta won the Cy Young was the sudden improvement of his team, which made his accomplishment the more striking. Whereas the Dodgers were expected to win and and underperformed, which tends to diminish Greinke's accomplishment.

16-1 (after being traded) also won Rick Sutcliffe a Cy Young in 1984. He was only 4-5 with the Indians. The dynamics of an achievement also have to be taken into account. Certainly Greinke could have won the award, and that goes for Kershaw as well. The fact that they were both Dodgers also meant they cancelled each other out to a certain extent.​
11:49 PM Aug 8th
 
schwarze
The reason Arrieta got the Cy Young in 2015 is because of his last 20 games. 16-1, 0.86 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 2 hrs allowed (he hit 2 HRs as a batter during that stretch). Not saying he deserved it over Greinke, but that streak from June 20 thru Oct 2 was mentioned pretty much every game he started.
3:33 PM Aug 8th
 
DMBBHF
Hi Sliotar,

I think you bring up some fair points about Verlander. He's clearly not going in if his career ended today. And, I agree his World Series efforts could hurt him, even though his overall postseason stats are good at 7-5, 3.39, and he's 4-0, 2.15 in the ALDS. But, I agree that the World Series results carry more impact, and that could hurt him.

I just happen to believe that:

a) He'll pitch well enough and long enough to get 250+ wins, and
b) His MVP will resonate with voters as a fairly uncommon accomplishment for a starting pitcher, and will carry a fair amount of weight.

I know that the Hall of Fame Monitor is not a perfect mechanism for predicting enshrinement, but it does imply that he's already above the "likely" line of 100 points. I just happen to think that, by the time he's done, he'll have enough of a case. I don't see him as a first ballot type....but I do see him as likely to be one whose case will gain momentum over a period of years.

Thanks,
Dan
10:10 PM Aug 4th
 
smbakeresq
Being an Oriole and thus Mike Mussina fan, I find it refreshing that he compares well with every pitcher on your list, except of course Kershaw. Mussina to me was very underrated throughout his career simply because he wasn't as good as Pedro or Johnson or Clemens, but then who was?
10:33 AM Aug 4th
 
Sliotar
Great stuff, Daniel.

Justin Verlander may get in over the (very) long haul, but he stood out to me on your list of likely enshrines as a definite "No" currently in 2016.

He might reach the win total in the low 200s, similar to Pedro and Smoltz, but unlikely to have either their 3 Cy Youngs or 100+ saves.

And, some of the selling points of his current peers, such as Bumgarner and his World Series exploits, work against Verlander. He's 0-3 in WS starts lifetime, having been lit like a Christmas tree by both the Cardinals and Giants.


9:20 PM Aug 3rd
 
DaveNJnews
But where oh where is J.A. Happ in all this?

(yes, just kidding. I just happened to notice he's now 14-3 for Toronto.)
4:25 PM Aug 3rd
 
DMBBHF
Hi Tangotiger,

I agree from an overall estimating standpoint, although when I look at the year-by-year age groups, at any point in time they may not be very equal. For example, by the late '70's, when the Ryan/Hunter/Palmer/Sutton/Carlton/Seaver group was in their early 30's, the 25 and under group had no future HOF'ers, and that group stayed vacant until Maddux and Glavine came along in the mid-'80's. I think we're at a point now where, in particular, we don't have any real strong candidates in the over 35 group at the moment, although I could certainly be wrong about Sabathia. And, I definitely agree that it would be reasonable to expect that there could be one or more pitchers currently under 25 that will emerge as serious candidates, and they just haven't shown enough yet.

Thanks,
Dan
7:30 AM Aug 3rd
 
DMBBHF
I tend to agree with Flyingfish's comments on Ruffing, Pennock, Hoyt, and Gomez relative to a supposed "Yankee" factor. Of that group, the most recently elected was Gomez (1972), and I think standards were very different when it came to identifying and honoring players. I also think it was more of a "championship" factor. Pennock was on the roster of 7 World Series champions, Ruffing and Gomez on 6, and Hoyt 3, including the famous '27 champs.

Sabathia has been on 1 champion, so the fact that he was a Yankee I don't think will carry much weight.

Regarding Pettitte - I think the observation could hold carry some weight there, as he was on 5 champions. However, I don't think that that will be enough. David Cone was also on 5 champions (1 Tor, 4 NY) and it didn't seem to help him much. If we look at position players, Bernie Williams was on 4 champs, but he hasn't gotten in either, and he's kind of the "Andy Pettitte" of position players, as he's prominent on the postseason leader boards in several hitting categories.

I think if Pettitte didn't have the PED issue, he'd have a lot better chance. You could argue that his case is different than those of Clemens and Bonds because Pettitte "came clean" and admitted it, and I get the sense that Pettitte doesn't seem to inspire the same level of outrage that others do, and that could help. I just think that, when people review his career, they're going to see a good pitcher on a great team, and I don't think that's going to be enough to carry him past the issues.

Also, regarding the inclusion on the original comment about Hunter.....I don't think most people think of him as a Yankee. I associate him much more with the A's.
7:17 AM Aug 3rd
 
tangotiger
Excellent. So my point is that an estimate of who will make it should have equal representation from each of those age groups. Obviously younger players have more candidates but each individually at lower odds. But the SUM should match the older group.
7:06 AM Aug 3rd
 
DMBBHF
Tangotiger,

Hopefully this answers your question....

Using 1900-1979, I get the following results:

25 & under: 2.4 per season
26-30: 3.0
31-35: 2.7
Over 35: 2.0

The 25 & under group was particularly high from '66-'70 (averaged about 6 per season), with Ryan, Hunter, Palmer, Sutton, Carlton, Jenkins, and Seaver being the prominent young HOF'ers over that stretch

The Over 35 group was particularly high from '30-'33 (again, about 6 per season), with Grimes, Pennock, Haines, Vance, Rixey, and Faber being the main drivers of that.

The closest I could get to setting the thresholds to result in even representation in all groups was:

25 or less - 24.2%
26-29 - 23.4%
30-34 - 28.1%
35 & higher - 24.3%

Thanks,
Dan

6:53 AM Aug 3rd
 
mauimike
No. Clapton was good.
1:45 AM Aug 3rd
 
flyingfish
Sansho1: I think the times have changed since Ruffing, Pennock, Hoyt, Gomez, or even Hunter were being considered. With all the electronic and video media we have now, there is almost no team that doesn't get attention. Certainly far more other teams do get attention now than did during the reigns of the Yankees of the 1950s and 1960s and even 1970s.
4:46 PM Aug 2nd
 
evanecurb
Dan:

Nice research. Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, and Johann Santana (and I would add Dwight Gooden, Brett Saberhagen, and Fernando Valenzuela) are all great examples of just how difficult it is to predict the career arc of a Hall of Fame pitcher. My take on all of this is that we go through periods when there are multiple Hall of Famers in the middle of their careers and periods when very few are at their peak. The 1960s and 70s, when there were mulitple Hall of Famers at the peak of their powers, are bracketed by the fifties and eighties (specifically the late '80s) when there were relatively few.

The 1950s stand out as having a paucity of Hall of Fame starters. Feller was well past his prime by 1950, and there were youngsters such as Koufax and Gibson who didn't really get started on a HOF course until the sixties. The HOFers who were at their peak in the fifties would include Roberts, Ford, Spahn, Wynn, and I'm not sure who else.
4:01 PM Aug 2nd
 
tigerlily
Yeah 337. Everybody knows Clapton is God.
1:26 AM Aug 2nd
 
337
Nice typo, tigerlily.
6:28 PM Aug 1st
 
tigerlily
Nice article Dan. I think Kershaw has an excellent peak value case for the Hall already. Hopefully though he'll be back and as god as ever.
3:07 PM Aug 1st
 
Hal10000
I've long thought that we're going to reach an inflection point in HOF voting for pitchers. Given today's usage patterns -- few CG's, five-man rotations and lots and lots of bullpen -- we're going to end up with what I call the Billy Wagner-Curt Schilling problem. That is, we're going to get a slew of relievers like Wagner, Papelbon, Rodriguez, etc., who have 400 saves and amazing rate stats. And the best starting pitchers will have about 200 wins and 3000 IP. The HOF can go in several directions with this. They can admit a bunch of closers and very few SP. They can rethink what a HOF SP looks like and limit the relievers. Or they can throw up their hands and admit no one or admit everyone.​
3:00 PM Aug 1st
 
sansho1
Don't bet against Pettitte or Sabathia. There are several outer circle HOF pitchers who were likely put over the top by virtue of the fame conferred by the Yankee pinstripes, and both Pettitte and Sabathia's cases look good compared to those of Ruffing, Pennock, Hoyt, Gomez, or Hunter.
11:37 AM Aug 1st
 
tangotiger
Dan:

Can you show the average number of Hall of Fame pitchers per year, from 1900-1979, by age group: 25-and-under, 26-30, 30-34, 35-and-over?

And if it's not too much trouble, can set the above thresholds so that you have around 25% of the pitchers in each age class?
8:51 AM Aug 1st
 
flyingfish
Dan: Very nice article, a good, thoughtful guide to pitchers' HOF chances. Obviously we know most about the oldest ones, but even there your guide provided insight.

One trivial question: what does "late 2000s" mean to most people? To me it means the same as "late 1800s" or "late 1900s," or towards the close of the century, although obviously you didn't mean it that way, and yes, your meaning is clear. Just a rambling musing about the language. As the late, great Danish pianist/comedian Victor Borge would say, "I didn't invent this language, I just try to use it."
8:38 AM Aug 1st
 
pgaskill
Very, VERY minor point, but Ryan couldn't have retired in '93, because, although BBRef shows no ML appearances for him in '94, he was listed as the starter in a July 1994 game against the Mariners. I remember this very well because I was at the game as a "visitor" from New York, where I'd moved from Seattle 2 years prior; I went to 2 Mariners games in my week back in Seattle that month. ¶ Ryan was listed as the starter, which means he had to have been on the active list, doesn't it?, but then he didn't start—and announced his retirement instead, I believe, immediately—because of continued leg problems (as I recall) that he decided would keep him from pitching any more. ¶ (Off topic): Another fun fact about my 2 M's games that week is that the other one didn't end up happening at all, as that was the day that some of the monster ceiling tiles at the Kingdome fell to the ground an hour or so before the game was to start, so those of us who had been "warming up" at F.X. across the street had no choice but to continue warming up. . . .
8:02 AM Aug 1st
 
Steven Goldleaf
Another excellent article, Daniel. At the end, you're not accounting (because who the hell can even guess) for which utter no-names at the very beginnings of their careers (like Nolan Ryan) will emerge as Hofers before they're done. I wonder what the last 20 starters inducted (or as I like to say, indicted or induced) into the HoF looked like in their first two or three seasons. Not much, I'm imagining, which is why there have got to be a few HoFers among us now who aren't even blips on your radar screen.
4:37 AM Aug 1st
 
MarisFan61
Nice piece, Dan! BTW I was conscious that it had been a while since your last article and was looking forward to seeing one from you again.

I like your conclusions; my only quibble is that I think you're underrating Sabathia's chances; I think he belongs solidly with your "5," to make a total of 6.
And even more so, I like how you found and showed the average numbers of HOF pitchers who were active in a season in each decade. I think that such things tend to be extremely reliable indicators for future years. And in this case, "future years" actually includes the present and even the past years going back at least to 1990, by which I mean that these recent decades are as yet only partially represented in the Hall of Fame, since more players will get in, and so those numbers have an understood "incomplete" after them.

I think those average numbers that we see up through the 1980's are excellent guides for how many HOF starting pitchers are likely to be active in any given season, with the exception that the 1940's doesn't count (because of The War) and the pre-1900 decades don't much count either. Seen this way, it is a very strong expectation that every season has probably at least 5-6 starters who will eventually make the Hall of Fame, and usually more.

I think this is a far stronger guide than anything we might gather from looking at benchmarks. I think the benchmarks will be the tail rather than the dog; as I've said in many different contexts, I think the main determinant is just having a sense of "greatness" about the player, and that people will tend to have that sense about approximately the same numbers of pitchers of any era, and therefore that they'll tend to revise their sense of the benchmarks in whatever ways are necessary in order to wind up with an impression of just about as many Hall of Fame starting pitchers in any new era as there were in eras of the past.
12:41 AM Aug 1st
 
DMBBHF
Note - My list of the Hall of Fame pitchers with the most MLB seasons, towards the end of the article, got truncated, so I'm trying to fix it, but my updated article still shows as pending. It stopped at Blyleven, but it should have included a few others, so the corrected table (and corresponding text) should be posted soon, I hope.

It should read as the following:

Nolan Ryan-27
Phil Niekro-24
Steve Carlton-24
Greg Maddux-23
Don Sutton-23
Early Wynn-23
Randy Johnson-22
Tom Glavine-22
Bert Blyleven-22
Gaylord Perry-22
Red Ruffing-22
Herb Pennock-22
Cy Young-22

Thanks,
Dan
8:06 PM Jul 31st
 
 
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