- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

Should Kevin Brown Be in the Hall of Fame?

Is there a more overlooked candidate on the current Hall-of-Fame ballot than Kevin Brown?

Poke around, and you’ll find the usual shopworn debates and entrenched positions, but Brown, it would seem, is being given short shrift. It’s not even that his case is being assailed; rather, it’s being altogether ignored, at least if the phased release of voter opinions is any guide. So the safe assumption is that Brown is going to garner little support, and his falling below the 5% threshold seems more likely than his election. That’s too bad.

Consider Brown’s traditional merits:

Statistic Career Rank
Wins 90th
Innings 96th
Strikeouts 38th
K/BB Ratio 61st

Those numbers make for a reasonable case, but that’s without delving into the advanced metrics of which we members of the basement-dwelling insurgency are so fond. Speaking of which …

Statistic Career Rank
Wins Above Replacement* 8th
Wins Above Replacement** 34th
Win Probability Added 23rd
Adjusted Pitching Wins 26th
Adjusted ERA+ 53rd

* FanGraphs version of Pitcher WAR, since 1980
** Baseball-Reference version of Pitcher WAR, for all-time

And here we have the classic profile of a player that’s overlooked by mainstream analysts — he grades out solidly enough according to the full complement of traditional stats, but he looks even better when advanced measures are introduced into evidence.

Brown won 211 games, authored a career ERA of 3.28, enjoyed a peak from 1996-2000 that was among the best of his era, and pitched in three different postseasons. If you knew nothing else, you would call Brown a borderline Hall of Famer. But when you consider his WAR, his ERA in context and his excellent WPA, he becomes something more than “merely” a strong candidate for Cooperstown. Brown’s dossier certainly isn’t of “inner circle” quality, but it’s not unreasonable to argue that he’s one of the 50 greatest pitchers of all-time. In fact, such an estimation might even be a bit conservative.

As for why he seems to have so little traction with Hall voters, it’s probably a combination of things. As mentioned, Brown suffers from a somewhat less virulent strain of the “Blyleven-Raines Malaise,” a condition in which the breadth of a player’s accomplishments escapes detection by the statistics commonly leaned upon by voters. Other, lesser reasons may involve Brown’s dour personality, his somewhat itinerant career, the misguided notion that he was a bust in L.A., and his misfortune of sharing the playbill with the likes of Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez.

In any case, Brown almost certainly will never make the Hall, but, according to established standards and his actual value, he belongs.