Blue Jays: To those saying Roy Halladay isn’t a first ballot Hall of Famer

TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 4: Former player Roy Halladay #32 of the Toronto Blue Jays with his sons before the start of MLB game action against the New York Yankees on April 4, 2014 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 4: Former player Roy Halladay #32 of the Toronto Blue Jays with his sons before the start of MLB game action against the New York Yankees on April 4, 2014 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

There are some folks in the baseball world who don’t believe that Roy Halladay should be a first ballot Hall of Famer. I believe those people are wrong.

It’s been wonderful to see how strong the support for Roy Halladay has been throughout this year’s Hall of Fame voting. Of course, not all of the ballots are public knowledge just yet, but it would appear that the late Halladay is on course for election in his first year of eligibility.

Being a first ballot Hall of Famer has always been perceived as an extra badge of honour within the game, and something that only the greatest players of their generation usually achieve. There have been quite a few in recent years with last year seeing Chipper Jones and Jim Thome as the latest examples, and Halladay has a chance to join them this year along with fellow nominee Mariano Rivera.

As of this writing, Halladay is known to have collected 93.8% of of the 173 votes that have been revealed, which is good for 43% of the total voting body (according to the amazing resource that is Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs). Thibodaux tracks the public ballots on an annual basis, and is the go-to resource for keeping tabs on any candidate’s chances. And unless something drastic happens, we can all expect “Doc” to be enshrined in the Hall in late July.

The funny thing is, I’ve noticed there have been a lot of folks commenting on social media about whether or not Halladay is worthy of a first ballot selection. Of course, some of this is just general banter from some ill-formed folks, but without calling anyone out directly, I’ve noticed a few knowledgable people say the same. It was enough to prompt me to take a look at his candidacy one more time, and see if I’m just being far too biased, or if there was more to their argument?

Spoiler alert: I still think they’re wrong.

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Halladay was one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, and that’s ultimately one of the biggest measuring sticks for merit as far as I’m concerned. Every voting writer has their own little variables that they consider, but I think looking at players in the context of their own era is really important, especially in Halladay’s case. (to be clear, I do NOT have a Hall of Fame vote)

He had to square off against a generation of ridiculous offence, and a lot of it was fuelled by alleged PED use. It likely tamed down quite a bit later in his career, but it’s pretty amazing that he put up the numbers he did during such an offensively driven era of the game.

‘Doc’ finished with a 203-105 record, posting a 3.38 ERA, a 1.178 WHIP, and earned 64.3 bWAR during his 15+ seasons between Toronto (11+), and Philadelphia (4). He was an eight time All-Star, a two-time Cy Young Award winner (also finished 2nd twice), and even received MVP votes during his first two seasons with the Philles. You also have to remember that Halladay pitched through some pretty dismal times in the Blue Jays’ franchise history, and had to regularly square off against some legendary teams in New York and Boston within his division. He also doesn’t always get the credit for being the workhorse of the Blue Jays’ rotation that he was, as he lead the American League in innings pitched on three occasions, and did the same in the NL when he arrived in Philadelphia 2010. He also has the signature moments of a Perfect Game, and a playoff no-hitter that stick out on his resume.

He may not have accumulated 300 wins or 3000 strikeouts (he had 2117), but there was no disputing his dominance on the mound, and there are a few other measurements that capture this a little bit better. One of the more modern measurements of determine (Hall of Fame) value is JAWS and that statistic is much more favourable to the Blue Jay legend. According to baseball reference, JAWS was developed by sabermetrician Jay Jaffe — first at Baseball Prospectus in 2004 — as a means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by comparing him to the players at his position who are already enshrined, using advanced metrics to account for the wide variations in offensive levels that have occurred throughout the game’s history. For a full explanation be sure to check out the link, but the key to me of the measurement is a player’s career WAR averaged with his 7-year peak WAR.

There the good doctor ranks 43rd all-time with Hall of Famers are around him, as Hal Newhouser ranks 39th, Bob Feller 40th, and Juan Marichal at 42nd. By that measurement, Halladay looks like a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but again, we’re talking about what makes a “first ballot” candidate here.

I’m not sure there’s a correct criteria for such a thing, but I decided to compare Halladay to the last 10 players to be elected on their first try, and also the last 10 pitchers. I compared the rankings in WAR for the position players, and WAR and JAWS for the pitchers. Let’s have a look at the position players first.

That brings us to an average of 82.6 WAR for the ten most recent inductees, so perhaps that’s one of the reasons some people don’t feel Halladay is deserving. The biggest glaring difference I see here other than Halladay being short at 64.3 WAR, is the fact that he only appeared in 16 seasons, with one of them being a cup of coffee in 1998 for two appearances. I realize longevity is part of the equation, but you have to wonder what kind of stats Halladay could have compiled with another four or five years on his resume.

"The JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system) was developed by sabermetrician Jay Jaffe — first at Baseball Prospectus in 2004 — as a means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by comparing him to the players at his position who are already enshrined, using advanced metrics to account for the wide variations in offensive levels that have occurred throughout the game’s history. The stated goal is to improve the Hall of Fame’s standards, or at least to maintain them rather than erode them, by admitting players who are at least as good as the average Hall of Famer at the position, using a means via which longevity isn’t the sole determinant of worthiness."

For those that think he should be measured strictly against his own pitching counterparts, let’s have at look at the most recent there and get an idea how he ranks.

  • Johnson (101.1 WAR, 81.3 JAWS, 10th all-time)
  • Martinez (84.0 WAR, 71.2 JAWS, 22nd all-time)
  • Smoltz (69.1 WAR, 53.9 JAWS, 62nd all-time)
  • Maddux (106.7 WAR, 81.5 JAWS, 9th all-time)
  • Glavine (80.8 WAR, 62.5 JAWS, 31st all-time)
  • Dennis Eckersley (62.4 WAR in 24 seasons, 50.2 JAWS as a reliever *)
  • Nolan Ryan (81.8 WAR in 27 seasons, 62.5 JAWS, 30th all-time)
  • Steve Carlton (90.5 WAR in 24 seasons, 72.4 JAWS, 17th all-time)
  • Tom Seaver (110.1 WAR in 20 seasons, 84.8 JAWS, 8th all-time)
  • Jim Palmer (68.9 WAR in 19 seasons, 58.3 JAWS, 36th all-time)

As you can see, there haven’t been a lot of pitchers that have received the first ballot nod, especially when you compare them to the position players. We had to go all the way back to 1990 with Jim Palmer to round out the most recent top 10. Eckersley isn’t a great comparison here for JAWS either because he spent the majority of his career as a reliever, but I included his number anyway.

Getting back to the task at hand, the average WAR this time was 85.5. Obviously it’s not helped at all by the massive totals put up by Johnson, Maddux, Seaver, and even Carlton, but we’re talking about the best of the best here. However, the JAWS numbers are a little more favourable, as the average of the nine (I didn’t include Eckersley here) was 69.8. Halladay is currently 43rd all-time with 57.5, and doesn’t lag far behind guys like Ryan, Glavine, or Palmer. He’s also ahead of Smoltz by a fair margin, and one could argue that he could be viewed as more valuable than Eckersley as well, as he is by the WAR measurement.

The other thing to consider is that Halladay is one of the last of the “work horse” mold of starting pitchers, and as such there won’t be a lot of pitchers passing his career marks the way the game is trending these days. Other than a handful of aging veterans like Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, C.C. Sabathia, Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez and a few more, we won’t see pitchers compiling stats the way the generations before them did. That takes us back to the whole “one of the best of his era” argument, and Halladay definitely fits that description. For more on that notion, have a look at this highlighted rundown from’s Matt Snyder:

"“From 2002-11, Halladay went 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA (148 ERA+) and 1.11 WHIP. His average season — prorated to a full season as to account for 2004-05 injuries — was 20-9, 2.97 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 191 strikeouts, 39 unintentional walks, eight complete games and three shutouts in 246 innings with 7.1 WAR. That’s a full 10 years of pitching at a Cy Young-winning level.”"

There’s also the variable of the strength of the ballot in the year in their first try, and that’s arguably working in Halladay’s favour right now as well. It’s looking like Mariano Rivera will be a lock for the Hall of Fame, but otherwise the two that are trending in the right direction are Edgar Martinez (90.4%) and Mike Mussina (81.5%). Guys like Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Larry Walker are all within reach of the 75% needed to gain induction, but each has their own variables to overcome like PED allegations, the Coors Field effect, or maybe just personality. Regardless, it hasn’t hurt that 2014 and 2015 had three first ballot inductees each year, which made a lot more space for Halladay now.

We could break down more statistics, or analyze more data, but there’s another piece of this puzzle that I believe plays a big factor, which is the human element. I think it’s safe to say that Halladay is going to be elected to the Hall of Fame, whether it’s in 2019 or sometime in the next couple of years. Because he tragically passed away in November of 2017, he’s not around to enjoy the festivities and the honour, leaving his wife and children to stand in his place at these festivities.

I can’t speak for the Halladay family, but I can’t imagine it’s easy to go through something like that, even when fans are honouring their late husband and father. Just as I’m sure it’s been a positive experience to re-live the glory of his career through media requests and interviews in some ways, I’m sure it’s been difficult in others. That’s never going to completely go away, and it’s not as if they want to try and forget about his life, but if we know that Halladay is going to be elected in the first few years anyway, could we not spare his family being dragged through an analysis of his career on annual basis? I know that shouldn’t have anything to do with whether or not he receives votes, but if I had one, it would play a factor for sure.

As I mentioned earlier, I understand why some purists look back at history and don’t believe that Halladay is a first ballot Hall of Famer. After all, guys like Joe DiMaggio and even Cy Young had to wait until the 2nd ballot before being enshrined. However, just as the game has evolved, so has the voting system, and keeping him out right now just because of something that happened back in the 1930’s doesn’t make any sense.

Franchise All-Time WAR Leaders- Position Players. dark. Next

Roy Halladay is definitely a worthy Hall of Famer, and as far as I’m concerned he’s a fitting first ballot selection as well. You can disagree with me if you must, but thankfully it looks like the voters are going to send him in on the first try. We’ll find out next week.