Making the case: Johan Santana and the 2018 Hall of Fame Ballot

Johan Santana
MIAMI - JUNE 24: Johan Santana #57 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during the game against the Florida Marlins at Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Florida on June 24, 2007. The Twins defeated the Marlins 7-4. (Photo by Victor Baldizon) MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The 2018 Hall of Fame Ballot has plenty of worthy contenders to join the Hall of Fame this upcoming year. 14 players return to the ballot, and 19 new players have been listed on the ballot. Today, we look at the career of pitcher Johan Santana.

Many compared Santana to Los Angeles Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax because of their mirrored careers, they were lefties and great pitchers. Do not get me wrong and let me be clear: Sandy Koufax is a much better pitcher and a Hall Famer. The comparison comes as his career was shortened because of an injury, and that is also what happened to Santana.

Making the Case: Johan Santana and the 2018 Hall Of Fame Ballot

Triple Crown Winner

Santana was the ace of the Minnesota Twins and one of the best pitchers in the better part of the decade. Santana in his prime was one of the best pitchers from 2004-2009. During that stretch, he was a four-time All-Star and a two time Cy Young Winner, taking home the award in 2004 and 2006. His best season came in 2006 when he won the Pitching Triple Crown. Between 2004 and 2009 he went 99-48 with a 2.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.04.

Some people have said that he also should have won the 2005 AL Cy Young. He finished in third place in the voting behind Mariano Rivera and the winner, Bartolo Colon. While Colon finished the season with more wins, Santana had a better ERA and WHIP.  In fact, only Rivera beat him in those categories. However, he pitched a lot fewer innings as a closer. Santana led all important categories, other than wins that season. In fact, it has been stated that in 2005, Bartolo Colon is one of the most undeserving pitchers ever to win the Cy Young.

The only left-handed pitcher who was better than Santana over a five-year span was Koufax. From 1961 to 1966 he went 129-47 with a 2.19 ERA and a .970 WHIP. He also won three Cy Young Awards and a National League MVP.

Over his career, Johan Santana put up an ERA+ of 136, ranking him in 20th of all qualified pitchers. This ties him with Bruce Sutter and Christy Mathewson. It is also a better ERA+ than legends such as Bob Gibson and Koufax. Santana in his prime was one of the best pitchers in the game, and arguably one of the best pitchers of all-time.

Why he is not a Hall of Fame Worthy Candidate

While he had an incredible prime, Johan Santana’s career was cut short because of injuries. He only pitched 200+ inning five times in his 12-year career. His seven-year-peak WAR was 44.8 and his career war is just 51.4. Outside of his prime years, he just was not that effective and valuable for his time. The average Hall of Famer has a career war of 73.9, and Santana falls way below that. It ranks 100th all-time of all qualified pitchers.

While it is not his fault that injuries derailed his career and ended it early, we have to judge players by what they actually do on the field, and not what they might have done if healthy. His career numbers just do not reach the lofty Hall of Fame standards. It is going to be hard for Santana to earn the 75% of the BBWAA votes necessary to induct Santana into the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame.

Santana’s career will always be marred by what might have been.  He was one of the best pitchers of his era, but he just did not have the longevity to earn a spot in baseball’s hallowed hall.

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