Though Johan Santana has expressed a desire to continue his playing career after recently finding out he had re-torn the anterior capsule muscle in his left shoulder, one can’t help but reflect on his great 12-year career with the Twins and Mets. Jay Jaffe did just that at Sports Illustrated, concluding that the Hall of Fame case for the lefty isn’t that strong.
Turning to the advanced metrics to compare Santana’s case against the starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame using Baseball-Reference.com’s version of Wins Above Replacement and my own Jaffe WAR Score (JAWS) system (explained here), we can get a better sense of the impact of his short career.
Santana has compiled 49.1 WAR for his career, and 43.1 for his peak (his best seven seasons), for an overall JAWS of 46.1. The average starting pitcher in the Hall has compiled 68.1 WAR for his career, and 47.7 for his peak, for an overall JAWS of 57.9. In other words, Santana is well short measured against all three standards.
Sandy Koufax will likely be the name most closely associated to Santana if he never pitches another inning, as Koufax has a similar career adjusted ERA (131 to Santana’s 136) and career workload (2,324 innings to Santana’s 2,025). Jaffe notes, however, that Koufax had much more success in the post-season and has an additional Cy Young and an MVP award on his mantle.
It will be interesting to see where the consensus among the Baseball Writers Association of America arrives, whether it’s in five years or longer when Santana hangs up the spikes for good.