Use a phrase once, it is an article. Use it twice, it’s a series.
Last time, I asked the brilliant commentariat to discuss the late Thurman Munson. wWAR (my system of weighted wins above replacement, based on WAR figures from Baseball-Rederence) placed Munson squarely on the Hall of Fame borderline—without giving him any extra credit at all for how he may have finished his career. Today, I give you another player that wWAR sees as Hall-worthy. In fact, this pitcher clears the hurdle by a substantial margin. I was, to be honest, a little surprised.
It’s David Cone.
- Cone’s 58.2 pitching WAR ranks 50th all time. That’s really impressive. Borderline Hall stuff. But his 35.6 Wins Above Average (WAA) ranks even better—40th all time.
- Of the 39 pitchers ahead of him in WAA, nine—Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Roy Halladay, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz—aren’t even eligible for induction yet (Clemens and Schilling will be on the next ballot, though).
- The only eligible pitchers ahead of him who are not in the Hall of Fame are Jim McCormick, Kevin Brown, Rick Reuschel, and Bret Saberhagen. (You can expect to see some of those names in future “Let’s Talk About” articles.)
- This tells us that Cone may not have lasted long (which explains his relatively low career totals), but when he pitched, he dominated.
- Cone doesn’t have 200 wins. Now, I subscribe to the school of “pitcher wins are horseshit”, but you still seem to need them to get into the Hall (unless you “earn” a ton of saves, which are made from an even lower grade of horseshit).
- (Non-Closer) Hall of Fame pitchers with fewer than 200 wins (who were inducted as a player): Dizzy Dean (150), Addie Joss (160), John Montgomery Ward (164, but was primarily a shortstop), Sandy Koufax (165), Lefty Gomez (189), Rube Waddell (195), Ed Walsh (195), Dennis Eckersley (197, but also a closer), Dazzy Vance (197), and Jack Chesbro (198).
- A dollar says that’s more than you thought.
- Among pitchers within 250 IP of Cone on either side (2649 to 3149 IP), Pedro Martinez and Roy Halladay own the best WAR. But in between 55 and 65 WAR, we see Stan Coveleski, Vance, Walsh, Cone, Al Spalding, Waddell, and Hal Newhouser. So, that’s Cone and six Hall of Famers.
- Cone won a Cy Young Award, but since it was in the strike-shortened 1994, nobody seems to remember it.
- He is 22nd all time in strikeouts. He led the league twice, led in K/9 three times, and fanned 200 six times (with 190+ another three times).
- In 21 postseason games (18 starts), he went 8-3 with a 3.80 ERA. His World Series numbers are 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in six games (five starts). He earned five World Series rings.
- Cone was a 5-time All Star and threw a perfect game.
- In his only year of eligibility, he received 3.9% of the Hall of Fame vote. Other first year candidates were Rickey Henderson and Mark Grace (who received 4.1%).
Does David Cone deserve to be in a Hall of Fame that features Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, Bob Gibson, Hal Newhouser, and Gaylord Perry? Maybe not. But the truth is, the Hall of Fame also includes Gomez, Waddell, Walsh, Chesbro, Vance, Red Ruffing, Eppa Rixey, Burleigh Grimes, Waite Hoyt, Chief Bender, Herb Pennock, Bob Lemon, Rube Marquard, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers… Cone was better than all of them.
What do you think of David Cone?