Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
CC Sabathia keeps statistical company with Hall-of-Famers. He has the same WAR as Dazzy Vance, and he's accumulated more than Juan Marichal and Don Drysdale. His ERA-plus is better than that of Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan and Fergie Jenkins, among others.
Sabathia is also one of only 17 pitchers with 3,000 strikeouts -- among the first 16, only Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling aren't honored in Cooperstown. And he's the 14th pitcher in MLB history to have 250 victories and 3,000 strikeouts. From that list, everyone but Clemens is enshrined.
Throw in Sabathia's 2007 AL Cy Young Award, the 2009 ALCS MVP, a ring with the 2009 Yankees, a nifty peak from 2006-12 and a rep as one of the best teammates around, and it's clear Sabathia has a tremendous Cooperstown resume.
But how will voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America treat the six-time All-Star when he's eligible for election in five years? Some say he's a slam-dunk to get in. Others wonder about his ERA (3.74, higher than all but two pitchers in the Hall of Fame) and his post-2012 lull in which he was 60-59 with a 4.33 ERA (a 97 ERA-plus) in 177 starts.
As part of this look at Sabathia's candidacy, we polled five voters. Hardly scientific, we know, but it at least offers a glimpse of how some voters are thinking.
Full disclosure: I'm one of the voters. I'll be voting for Sabathia when he hits the ballot, which means three-of-five of those polled are planning to do so. Another called himself "not 100 percent a yes yet." But, he noted, "I'd say I'm strongly leaning that way."
If four-of-five held over the entire voting body, Sabathia would get in, since a candidate needs to get 75 percent of the vote. But not everyone is certain Sabathia belongs.
"Undecided," another voter said. "I feel like the body of work probably is worthy, but I have trouble finding enough Hall of Fame-type seasons when going year-by-year. Perspective could change in five years."
It's a fair criticism of Sabathia's numbers. If Sabathia got in, only Jack Morris (3.90) and Red Ruffing (3.80) would have a higher career ERA.
And while Sabathia sits with a nice collection of already-enshrined pitchers on several stat lists, that game can be dangerous. For instance, he has the same career ERA-plus right now as Sonny Gray, 186th overall, according to baseball-reference.com.
In baseball-reference's version of WAR, Sabathia's 62.5 is in the same neighborhood as David Cone (61.6) and Andy Pettitte (60.6), as well as Hall of Famers such as Jim Bunning (60.3) and Dennis Eckersley (62.2). The average WAR for a Hall of Fame starter is 73.4.
Newly-enshrined Mike Mussina and Morris are two of the 10 pitchers whose careers are most like Sabathia's, according to the Bill James' Similarity Scores. But the other eight are not Hall of Famers. Jay Jaffe's JAWS measurement, which considers peak and career WAR totals, pegs Sabathia at 51.2; the average JAWS score of a Hall of Fame starting pitcher is 61.5.
Still, there are 29 Hall of Fame pitchers who were primarily starters who have fewer wins than Sabathia, whatever you think about that stat. Sabathia is tied with Bob Gibson with 251 wins, which, for instance, is more than Marichal (243) and Whitey Ford (236).
There are 20 Hall of Fame pitchers with a worse ERA-plus than Sabathia's 116 and several decorated hurlers right near that number -- Gaylord Perry (117), Tom Glavine (118) and Bert Blyleven (118). Only Randy Johnson and Carlton have more strikeouts among left-handed pitchers.
Sabathia's career resonates beyond numbers with some voters, too. He reinvented himself as a pitcher after his fastball deserted him, employing a cutter to become a master of soft contact. Sure, the latter stage of his Yankee career has had its share of injuries and rough patches. But he was crafty enough to author strong 2017-18 seasons, too.
He's always been a beloved teammate, dating back to when the Yankees signed him as a free agent, hoping he'd help change the clubhouse culture. You probably didn't need more proof of that happening, but there was plenty on display Wednesday night in the hugs he got from teammates after leaving what's likely his final start at Yankee Stadium as well as the ceremony the Yankees gave him on Sunday.
In 2008, he put his career on the line down the stretch in Milwaukee, often pitching on three days as he helped the Brewers to the playoffs by going 11-2. It all counts.
"CC is not a 'borderline' Hall of Famer for me," notes one voter. "He clearly belongs. He had long-term excellence, as evidenced by the wins and strikeout totals, a peak period of greatness, as evidenced by the Cy Young Award, 20 win seasons, All-Star Games and a dominant 2009 postseason. He was an ace on winning teams and has the intangible appeal of being so well-respected in his and other clubhouses.
"There are no unchecked boxes where CC Sabathia is concerned."
Added another voter: "Not at a Hall of Fame level late in his career, but his achievements (3,000 strikeouts, 250-plus wins) in his era as the last of those lions takes him over the top. And not that this is a Hall of Fame qualification, but I've always been impressed by his deep appreciation of history and who came before him and he's been a Hall of Fame teammate who has influenced many."