Best 4-year WAR for Pitchers, 1982-2011

In light of recent discussions of Roy Halladay, here are the best 4-year bWAR totals by pitchers in the past 30 years. The top 15 marks all belong to Clemens, Maddux, Johnson or Pedro (with an even spacing among the top 12); you’ll find Halladay’s 27.7 WAR at #18:

[table id=30 /]

 

It’s been mentioned that Halladay has 4 straight years with ERA+ of 150 or better. Putting it in WAR terms, he has 4 straight years of 6+ WAR; only 4 other pitchers have done that since 1982:

[table id=31 /]

 

Maddux had 7 straight years at the 6-WAR level; no one else in this span had more than 4 straight.

Finally, here are the pitchers with the most 5-WAR seasons since 1982:
(Note the threshold change from the prior table – this is 5-WAR seasons)

[table id=32 /]

 

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bstar
bstar
9 years ago

John, even before reading you may have the date on the title of the article wrong. Shouldn’t it be 1982-2011? You have 2001.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
9 years ago

Great post, JA. I suppose this is why Maddux/Johnson/Pedro (and Clemens, for many) are considered such slam-dunk-all-time-great players. They have the best careers and peaks of all their contemporaries. It still remains to be seen, I think, how the next 3-ish years of Halladay’s career play out. They’ll mean a whole lot to the narrative.

Mike L
Mike L
9 years ago

Really fascinating. I wonder if steroids usage, the greater realization of the value of walks, and higher home run rates haven’t accentuated the differences between the run of the mill or even good pitcher and the absolute elite. Batters may be (artificially) bigger and stronger, but you still have to make contact. BTW, Koufax’s last four years totaled 37.6 WAR (a very hard number to wrap your head around)

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike L

I think it’s possible that being a great pitcher in a high-offensive period allows for greater separation from the pack.

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Yup. A couple years ago I set out to prove what I thought was a certainty, something which supported my belief that high-offensive periods allow great pitchers to separate from the pack.

The data from the 90s/00s and the 1960s/early 70s seemed to support the idea. Then I ran into the dead ball era vs. the high offense 1920s and 30s and the idea fell apart.

Like you, my guy agrees; the data does not. Perhaps there’s just something about the dead ball era that throws all the data off, but I can’t figure out what it might be.

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

Ny *gut* agrees, although my guy might be a funnier response.

Mike L
Mike L
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

@19, John A-wouldn’t you expect the unearned runs to be proportional, as bad fielding would affect everyone?

PhilM
PhilM
9 years ago

Not to beat a dead horse, but I’ll always consider Kevin Brown’s career to be as good or better than Curt Schilling’s. (Curtis Montague does have the postseason performance, but as a Yankee fan I’m conveniently disregarding that.)

It’s a shame the steroid taint (well, one mention in that paragon of propriety George Mitchell’s report) and a “surly to the press” demeanor dropped him from BBWAA Hall of Fame consideration so quickly, so now he doesn’t even have the “re-evaluation” period that Bagwell has been consigned to. As long as Schilling doesn’t coast in next ballot. . . .

PhilM
PhilM
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

That’s true: with apologies to (a presumably sarcastic) Noel Coward, perhaps our motto should be along the lines of — “baseball’s dead horses should be beaten regularly, like gongs!”

PhilM
PhilM
9 years ago

And since I have the list: here are the number of five-year bWAR titles. We used five years for the Dynastic Succession, and I use five-year intervals for my own studies, so it’s readily available. Brown, but no Schilling! Pitcher 5-yr WAR HoF Lefty Grove 9 BW Cy Young 8 BW Walter Johnson 7 BW Hal Newhouser 6 VC Roger Clemens 6 Bob Gibson 5 BW Christy Mathewson 5 BW Robin Roberts 5 BW Dazzy Vance 4 BW Don Drysdale 4 BW Greg Maddux 4 BW Kid Nichols 4 VC Phil Niekro 4 BW Tommy Bond 4 Warren Spahn 4… Read more »

PhilM
PhilM
9 years ago
Reply to  PhilM

I stayed up too late watching March Madness: there are no Marichal or Devlin 5-year titles. Correct list: Pitcher 5-yr WAR HoF Lefty Grove 9 BW Cy Young 8 BW Walter Johnson 7 BW Hal Newhouser 6 VC Roger Clemens 6 Bob Gibson 5 BW Christy Mathewson 5 BW Robin Roberts 5 BW Dazzy Vance 4 BW Don Drysdale 4 BW Greg Maddux 4 BW Kid Nichols 4 VC Phil Niekro 4 BW Warren Spahn 4 BW Bob Feller 3 BW Dave Stieb 3 Hoss Radbourn 3 VC Johan Santana 3 John Clarkson 3 VC Pedro Martinez 3 BW Randy… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
9 years ago
Reply to  PhilM

Phil M
Schilling did incur a couple of surgeries to break up whatever roll he was on (unlike, say, Palmer & Jenkins). But, yeah, Kevin Brown “gettsa no respecta” despite his mirror of Schilling’s numbers. Schilling is a lot easier to take in retirement, that’s for sure

Paul E
Paul E
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

J A:
Years ago, in the midst of some labor negotiations, Schilling was blowing off about what was right and wrong about the situation and offering possible solutions when one of his former teammates in Philadelphia mentioned something to the effect, “when he was here he wanted to be the general manager, now he wants to be commissioner”

Mike L
Mike L
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Interesting you should mention that, John A. I’ve heard that the Hall of Fame committee is concerned about the costs of retrofitting the ventilation system if Schilling gets in. One approach would be simply to build an entirely new wing, dedicated solely to the great man’s accomplishments. The thought is that mingling with lesser mortals (like Grove, Johnson, Feller, Koufax, etc.) wouldn’t do him justice. As an added bonus, excess heat in the winter might be drawn off to power a foundling children’s hospital, where, during the holiday season, cherubic faces would sing carols dedicated to him.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Funny stuff, guys. “Self-serving gasbag” was exquisite.

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago
Reply to  PhilM

Silver King. A player I once knew but had forgotten. I wonder if that 580-inning season led to his demise at 24. Didn’t they know anything about innings and pitch counts back then?!

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  PhilM

Phil, is ‘Dynastic Succession’ an actual tool you are talking about that anyone can use? If so, where, or was that just a generic term to describe what you were doing?

PhilM
PhilM
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

“Dynastic Succession” was an earlier thread (March 10), and I had weighed in with a list of the five-year run differential leaders, starting with the 1901-1905 Pirates through the 2007-2011 Yankees. It has a nice ring to it, coined by Birtelcom as his headline.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  PhilM

Oh, that’s right, now I recall. I remember your tableaus as well. Thanx Phil.

Jeff Allen
Jeff Allen
9 years ago

Halladay now has 6 years of 6+ WAR, tying him with 7 HOFers for 15th most all-time. Everyone above him is either in the HOF, will get in on their first ballot (Johnson, Maddux), or will get in once the BBWAA stop trying to deny the Steroid Era counted (Clemens).

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Well, of course, 8 WAR is a purely arbitrary figure. Let’s look at, say, seasons with a WAR over 6.5 or better. Halladay, at age 34, stands tied for 7th all-time among pitchers: most seasons with 6.5+ WAR: 1. Roger Clemens 10 1. Christy Mathewson 10 3. Lefty Grove 9 3. Walter Johnson 9 5. Randy Johnson 7 5. Pete Alexander 7 7. Roy Halladay 6 7. Tom Seaver 6 7. Phil Niekro 6 Looks like a historically elite group, without question. The only way Roy Halladay could possibly miss the Hall of Fame at this point would be for… Read more »

Ed
Ed
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

I think he’d make it even if he’s just an average pitcher for the next 5 years, say 60-60 with an ERA+ of 100. Hard to overlook 2 Cy Youngs, 2 2nd place finishes, and a third.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Agreed, and how likely is that? Pretty non-existent. Pitching a perfect game and a no-hitter in the playoffs is but icing on the cake.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Or your choice of 8 because Halladay had never reached that plateau:-)

Ed
Ed
9 years ago

Well he was getting bombed in spring training but I think he was tired of people wondering what was going on so he went out and threw 6 shutout innings in his last start.