We can go ahead and continue using the flawed voting of yesteryear as our benchmark for what constitutes a Hall of Famer, or we can say, “scrap that, our Hall-of-Fame-voting forefathers had it wrong and it’s our job to make it right!”
When I watch CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander dealing like aces more than a decade after they were first dubbed “aces,” I feel like I am watching careers that are deserving of Hall-of-Fame induction.
We are now 17 seasons removed from when CC went 17-5 and finished runner-up to Ichiro Suzuki in the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year voting. We are 12 seasons removed from when Justin Verlander went 17-9 with an ERA+ of 125 to win the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year award. And if you surveyed any GM in those early years, they would be hard-pressed to prescribe better career arches than the ones these two guys have put together.
CC won the 2007 AL Cy Young Award, was the best pitcher in all of baseball in 2008, and was the staff ace of the World Series champion Yankees in 2009. He has 237 career wins, a .619 winning percentage, 2846 strikeouts and an ERA+ of 117, which is the same as Gaylord Perry and higher than Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Fergie Jenkins, Robin Roberts, and Nolan Ryan.
Justin Verlander won both the AL Cy Young and MVP award in 2011, has a .623 winning percentage and has led the league in strikeouts four times. He brought the Tigers out of the division basement and into perennial contention. In addition, his ERA+ of 124 puts him ahead of Juan Marichal, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, and Don Drysdale. These are inner-circle Hall of Famers!
Both CC and Verlander have finished in the top five in Cy Young voting five times. They also rank 17th and 15th, respectively in all-time Win Probability Added (WPA). Yet, because other pitchers that combined dominance with longevity have been denied Hall of Fame induction, CC and Verlander’s odds, as they stand today, cannot be certain. I’m talking guys like Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Rick Reuschel, Luis Tiant, and Kevin Brown. Even Doc Gooden, Dave Stieb, Bret Saberhagen, Orel Hershiser and David Cone. Even though many of these pitchers’ careers occurred before my time, the company they keep with CC and Verlander in the Hall of Sabermetrics tells me enough about their Hall-of-Fame worthiness.
I wish that the Veterans Committee would have a watershed moment and fix the mistakes of our Hall-of-Fame-voting forefathers, but I am not going to hold my breath. Luckily for CC and Verlander, both are willing and able to add to their resumes. But the question is, how much more do they need to do?
Professional statistical modeler who counts pondering the game of baseball as a favorite, lifelong pastime.