The arbitrary cut-off I use for what is to be considered a great season is a minimum of 6 WAR. Or 6 wins. This is the cut-off for many. Some others will count a say, 5.8, as a 6. But I don’t. I use a strict baseline. It benefits some, hurts others. But in reality does nothing, since I have no vote for any award that Major League Baseball currently has.
Since I wrote about Tom Glavine not quite being great enough to receive my hypothetical Hall of Fame vote, I received a bunch of feedback. Readers of the piece said I shouldn’t use FIP, that it is not as relevant over the course of a long career. A point well-received. A point that certainly has some validity behind it.
Many chose to use bWAR in Glavine’s defense instead since it takes into account runs allowed, rather than just the three true outcomes a pitcher encounters.
Here are Glavine’s numbers:
Glavine’s pitcher bWAR: 74. two seasons of 6 or more WAR.
Glavine’s pitcher fWAR: 63.9. no seasons of 6+ WAR.
But according to Baseball Reference, Glavine added 7.5 wins at the plate. Yes, his career .454 OPS actually added value. Adjusted, that is an OPS+ of 22.
At Fangraphs, he added 5.7 wins with his bat, while having his career .214 wOBA.
But the question here is, should we include Glavine’s offensive game? We are comparing one player to another in cases like these and not every pitcher has the chance to hit in his career. Or at least a consistent chance to hit and accumulate value by hitting.
It’s not like a general manager would try to sign a free agent pitcher that could hit and use lingo like, “You know, you have a pretty good stick for a pitcher. If you sign with us in the NL, that will probably increase your total WAR when the statistic is invented in the future, and give you a better Hall of Fame case.”
Of course, the general manager probably would use the fact that he could hit as a “selling point.” But obviously not the way I described the scenario above.
So if you add in Tom Glavine’s hitting, he all of a sudden has four seasons of 6+ bWAR and two seasons of 6+fWAR.
Neither are particularly dominating, or truly great, but they definitely help his case a little.
But let’s take a pitcher such as Mike Mussina, who seems to be a good comp in people’s eyes to that of Glavine.
Mussina pitched in the American League his entire career. He accrued -0.1 wins as a hitter. He didn’t hit. He pitched.
He totaled 82 fWAR with three seasons of 6+ wins.
And totaled 82 bWAR with four seasons of 6+ wins.
He has a better case for the Hall of Fame with or without Glavine’s bat. But that is kind of aside from the point.
So I ask the question: should a pitcher, who hits terribly, but based on opportunity and even more terrible hitting by other pitchers, get credit for it in terms of value? In particular, in terms of Hall of Fame voting?
It’s a legitimate argument. But it seems to be unfair to American League pitching. And when we compare Hall of Fame pitchers to one another, we compare them from both leagues.
Glavine still isn’t a sure-fire Hall of Famer, no matter which way you look at it. He was never nearly as dominant as a Maddux or Randy Johnson.
But then again, he didn’t have to be. He just had to be good enough to make a strong enough impression on the voters.
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