You don't need me to tell you the ten person limit is silly, but given that rule it would be expected in a deep year for several worthy candidates to not make the cut. In a perfect world there would be no limit. In a slightly less perfect world, eight or nine people would be enshrined with a few down ballot people not making the cut as the voters couldn't all agree on their last choices. Of course we don't live in a perfect world, far from it as only four were voted in.
If you ignore steroids and its cousin steroid speculation, and I do, by my count there are 15 worthy candidates - Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker and Mark McGwire. If you are a stickler about those who cheated then that number goes down to a whopping 13 once you remove Bonds, Clemens and McGwire. So, naturally only 4/13 were voted in then. The BWAA is really a pain, isn't it?
However I've yet to really say anything that hasn't been said before, both in these parts over the last few years and on any other site that houses honorable baseball thoughts. My main concern is the lack of support for Mike Mussina (and Curt Schilling) who only received a paltry 24.6% of the vote in his second year on the ballot. He made some progress from his initial 20.3% last year but he's still far off on what will still be a crowded ballot in future years.
John Smoltz was a fantastic pitcher and a certain hall of famer. His stats speak for themselves - 213 wins and 154 saves in 3473 innings pitched with a 3.33 ERA (125 ERA+) in the steroid era. His 78.7 fWAR ranks 22nd all time. The voters got this one right.
Let's look at two other pitchers that for convenience sake we will call Curt and Mike compared to Mr. Smoltz.
Smoltz - 3,473 IP, 213 wins, 3.33 ERA, 125 ERA+ 154 saves, 3,084 strikeouts (7.99 K/9) against 1,010 walks (2.62 BB/9), 78.7 fWAR, 79.7 RA-9 WAR.
Curt - 3,261 IP, 216 wins, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+, 22 saves, 3,116 strikeouts (8.60 K/9) against 711 walks (1.96 BB/9), 83.2 fWAR, 81 RA-9 WAR.
Mike - 3,562.2 IP, 270 wins, 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+, 2813 strikeouts (7.11 K/9) against 785 walks (1.98 BB/9), 82.5 fWAR, 82.8 RA-9 WAR.
Curt is obviously Schilling and Mike is obviously Mussina. You knew that. Did you also know they were all basically the same player value wise? They did it in different ways of course with Smoltz starting and relieving, Schilling having a higher peak and Mussina just generally being great for the duration of his career. But, is Smoltz deserving while the others aren't? I'm asking a lot of easy questions here.
John Smoltz was a fantastic closer after returning from Tommy John surgery. From 2002-2004 Smoltz threw 226.1 innings out of relief with a 2.47 ERA/173 ERA+ and 144 saves while racking up 243 strikeouts and 7.3 WAR. Those are fantastic numbers for a reliever, but starting is more important. 2.5 WAR is a solid season from a starting pitcher but it's nothing to write home about and you have to consider that all of those innings in relief also helped lower Smoltz's ERA. While Smoltz was relieving, Mike Mussina threw 595 innings in the AL and was worth 14 wins. It's funny, Mussina was twice as valuable as Smoltz over that stretch but Smoltz gets all the credit because he dominated in a roll that's easier to dominate. Life's not fair.
But wait, I forgot about the postseason! Let's take a look. Clearly Smoltz is more worthy...
Smoltz - 209 IP, 15-4 2.67 ERA, 2.97 K/BB.
Schilling - 133.1 IP, 11-2, 2.23 ERA, 4.8 K/BB.
Mussina - 139 IP, 7-8, 3.42 ERA, 4.39 K/BB.
Smoltz had the most opportunity was definitely fantastic in the playoffs but Schilling was fantastic-er and Mussina was pretty damn good himself. If we're going to give Smoltz more credit for his extra innings pitched, W/L record and performance in the playoffs we have to then give Mussina credit for his extra innings pitched, W/L record in the regular season.
Smoltz, Mussina and Schilling are all HOF pitchers in my mind but Smoltz got in the first ballot for a few reasons, none of which actually make him more qualified than his peers who were left off:
- He closed. It didn't add much actual value to his career, but it certainly helped our perception of his value.
- He played with Maddux and Glavine. Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz were always the big three and since Smoltz was HOF caliber he was propped up to no-brainer/first ballot because of his teammates.
- He pitched in the NL. This helps, duh.
- He crushed in the postseason.
- He won a Cy Young.