Sunday, September 14, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Roy Halladay and history's greats who never won

This post began when I was catching up on some offseason e-mail (sorry mom). A reader emailed with some thoughts on Jimmy Rollins Hall of Fame chances, particularly in light of Barry Larkin's induction. You can read that post tomorrow (allot about three hours). But first, I thought we'd examine Roy Halladay, since the veteran right-hander spoke to the media on Tuesday and talked at length about his future and his lack of a World Series ring.

Roy Halladay and history's greats who never won

Roy Halladay played in only two postseasons in his 14-year career so far. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay played in only two postseasons in his 14-year career so far. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

This post began when I was catching up on some offseason e-mail (sorry mom). A reader emailed with some thoughts on Jimmy Rollins Hall of Fame chances, particularly in light of Barry Larkin's induction. You can read that post tomorrow (allot about three hours). But first, I thought we'd examine Roy Halladay, since the veteran right-hander spoke to the media on Tuesday and talked at length about his future and his lack of a World Series ring.

Halladay is probably my favorite player to watch and listen to behind the scenes. In actual games, I find him to be a bit boring, only because you see pretty much the same thing as you did five days prior, and five days before that. That might not make much sense. Believe me, though, it's a compliment.

What I find most fascinating is Halladay's ability to take that repetition off the field with him. Every waking moment, at least every waking moment you see and ask questions about at the ballpark, is dedicated to doing everything in his individual power to help the team win. He moves from one task to the next like a living, breathing robot who is programmed with the singular goal of dominating his opponent. He charts every bullpen session, every start, even his workouts. From a writer's perspective, he is not the most accessible athlete in the world, but only because he has learned to tune out everything that has the potential to distract him from his mission. When he does speak publicly, he treats each question like he treats an at-bat, listening intently and processing intently before providing an answer that is often more insightful than his mannerisms and voice inflection might indicate.

I watch Roy Halladay and I think, damn, if I was that focused on my craft I'd be working on my 12th novel.

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This focus is what I wrote about in the story that appeared in today's paper, because it struck me on Tuesday when Halladay explained why he would be at peace if he finished his career without winning a World Series ring. Think about it. In any other sport, a superstar can have a direct impact on the outcome of virtually every game that his team plays. It's why we focus so much on titles won when evaluating the various levels of greatness. Would we look at Peyton Manning the same way if he had not won that Super Bowl? But baseball is the one team sport where a $20 million-a-year headliner like Halladay spends 80 percent of his team's regular season games and at least a third of his team's postseason games without the ability to contribute to victory or defeat.

Anyway, all of that got me curious about Halladay's eventual place in the Hall of Fame. I decided to check out all of the pitchers have logged at least 2,500 innings since integration (2,500 innings since Halladay has just over that number, and integration because the segregated era is far less relevant, not to mention far more tainted than the steroid era will ever be).

As always, thanks go to Baseball-Reference.com for compiling the database that makes such inquiries possible.

Here is what I found:

Of the 25 pitchers with the highest adjusted ERA (actual ERA adjusted to the time period's league average and ballpark factors), only four have not won a World Series: Tim Hudson, Mike Mussina, Billy Pierce and Roy Halladay.

For those simply interested in actual ERA, Halladay and Pierce along with Jim Bunning, Don Sutton, Wilbur Wood, Mel Stottlemyre, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal and Steve Rogers are the nine members of the Top 25 who did not win World Series. In fact, 24 of the top 35 ERA leaders in the integration ERA (1947 through the present, minimum 2,500 IP) have World Series rings.

In some respects, World Series were easier to win before the expansion era. But even when you look just at the 18 pitchers who have logged 2,500 since the wild card was introduced, you see Halladay as one of only five pitchers not to have a ring (Mussina, Hudson, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Millwood).

It's interesting to consider given the argument for Jack Morris' Hall of Fame merits always involves his performance in the Blue Jays' World Series wins.

Consider:

-Rogers pitched in three of the Expos' four wins during the 1981 postseason, when they fell to the Dodgers in a decisive Game 5 in the NLCS. Two of Rogers' wins were complete games, one of which was a shutout. In the other, he allowed one run in 8 2/3 innings. Yet he allowed the winning run in the ninth-inning of Game 5 after inheriting a 1-1 tie as a reliever.

-Mussina pitched for teams that lost twice in the World Series, three times in the LCS, and four times in the LDS.

-Pierce lost as a member of the White Sox in the '59 series and as a member of the Giants in the '62 series. He appeared in five regular season games for the world champion Tigers in his rookie year of 1945, but did not pitch in the postseason.

-Stottlemyre was the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the 1964 World Series.

-Sutton played on four World Series losers and one LCS loser.

It will be interesting to see how baseball writers choose to judge the modern day starting pitcher. Thus far, the Hall of Fame contains no members who pitched in the 2000's. Dennis Eckersley, who retired after the 1998 season, is the most current member. But a host of star pitchers are soon to be eligible: Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling (2012), Greg Maddux, Mussina and Tom Glavine (2013) and Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz (2014).

Morris received more than 50 percent of the vote last year. Mussina's career ERA is lower, and his 3.00 ERA in three World Series starts is only a shade higher than Morris' 2.96 ERA in seven World Series starts. Will Mussina eventually get more than 50 percent of the vote? Or will history discard him long before it discarded Morris because he never won it all?

One thing is for sure: when Halladay's name arrives on the ballot, the number of rings on his fingers won't matter.



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