The 569 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who cast ballots last year are in desperate need of some clear guidelines on how to judge players from the so-called Steroid Era, but no such help appears to be forthcoming. Thus, the Hall of Fame chances of players who are still active could be affected by a potential logjam of current eligibles who wallow in ballot purgatory as the electorate struggles with who should be penalized and who should be rewarded for their performances in an era when the sport was rife with PED use.
The feeling here is that players should be judged against the era in which they participated, and because neither the commissioner's office nor the players association took steps to nullify the effects of drug use on the results of that era, then it would be foolish and extra-judicial for voting members of the BBWAA to take it upon themselves to do so. Silence is often the most culpable accessory to the commission of misdeeds. Every player who participated in the steroid era bears some responsibility for the status quo. Thus, no player should be penalized or rewarded for operating within it.
So what do the numbers say about the current crop of Phillies who will likely spend time on the ballot once their playing days are complete?
Let's run them down in order of the strength of their candidacy.
1. ROY HALLADAY
(Daily News odds: 1 to 10)
Even if Halladay never throws another pitch after this season, it will be difficult to argue against his inclusion. If you believe that wins are something a pitcher should be judged on, there are 54 pitchers who finished their careers with more than his 203 and are not in the Hall of Fame. But there are 10 starters in the Hall of Fame who failed to reach that mark: Rube Marquard, Jack Chesbro, Dazzy Vance, Ed Walsh, Rube Waddell, Lefty Gomez, Sandy Koufax, Monte Ward, Addie Joss and Dizzy Dean. So wins have never been a deal-breaker, contrary to public perception.
Of the 64 pitchers in the Hall of Fame, only 10 have fewer innings than Halladay, three of whom were relievers, and a fourth of whom was Babe Ruth. But that still leaves Koufax and Dean, both of whom, coincidentally, retired with the same ERA+ of 131 that Halladay had as of last week. (This stat adjusts a pitcher's earned run average according to whether the home ballpark is pitcher- or batter-friendly, and the league ERA. An ERA+ above 100 indicates that the pitcher performed better than average.) Koufax averaged 9.28 K/9 and 2.93 K/BB. Halladay's career marks: 6.9 K/9 and 3.59 K/BB, both marks better than those of Dean.
The 1988 season was the last one to feature more than 10 pitchers who eclipsed the 250 innings mark. Since that year, Halladay is one of five pitchers with more than 2,500 innings and an ERA+ over 130. Here is the list:
Pedro Martinez: 2,827 1/3 innings, 154 ERA+
Clemens: 3,885 1/3 innings, 143 ERA+
Greg Maddux: 4,572 2/3 innings, 137 ERA+
Randy Johnson: 4,109 1/3 innings, 135 ERA+
Halladay: 2,749 innings, 131 ERA+
Among those with 2,500 innings who rank behind Halladay:
Schilling: 3,246 1/3 innings, 129 ERA+
Kevin Brown: 3,228 innings, 127 ERA+
John Smoltz: 3,409 innings, 126 ERA+
Tim Hudson: 2,813 2/3 innings, 124 ERA+
Mike Mussina: 3,562 2/3 innings, 123 ERA+
Tom Glavine: 4,167 2/3 innings, 121 ERA+
CC Sabathia, 2,755 innings, 121 ERA+
Halladay is one of 16 pitchers to win multiple Cy Youngs. The non-Hall of Famers on that list: Bret Saberhagen, Johan Santana, Denny McLain, Tim Lincecum, Clemens, Johnson, Maddux, Martinez, Glavine.
Johnson, Maddux and Martinez are virtual locks, Clemens would be if not for the taint of PED allegations, and Lincecum and Santana are still active. McLain's Cy Young seasons were two of only three in which ERA+ had him as an above-league-average pitcher. The rest of his 10-year career he was significantly worse than that. Saberhagen, meanwhile, only had four seasons with more than 197 innings pitched. Halladay has eight. Glavine will be eligible next season.
When you look at Halladay's body of work, from the multiple Cy Youngs to the perfect game to the playoff no-hitter to the remarkable innings load that he carried during his peak, and then you combine them with the in-game results (runs, strikeouts, wins, etc.), he's a Hall of Famer who is only on the borderline of warranting some debate, a debate in which any advocacy from the devil would be quickly refuted anyway. The strongest argument against Halladay as a Hall of Famer is really more of an argument for pitchers like Brown, Mussina and Schilling. And you are better off arguing them from that perspective and leaving Halladay out of it.
2. CLIFF LEE
(Daily News odds: 10 to 1)
Lee is an interesting case because of how late he blossomed. At the start of his 29-year-old season, he had just 741 2/3career innings with a 4.64 ERA and 94 ERA+. In the six seasons since, he has amassed 1,318 2/3 innings with a 2.90 ERA and 140 ERA+. Combined, that leaves him with 2,060 innings, a 3.53 ERA and a 118 ERA+. The feeling here is that it will take him at least two more seasons of 200-plus innings at his current level of production to solidify his case for inclusion. That would essentially leave him at Halladay's current numbers, minus the wins, the no-hitters and the multiple Cy Youngs.
3. JIMMY ROLLINS
(Daily News odds: 20 to 1)
There are only 19 Hall of Famers who played more than 50 percent of their games at shortstop.
Rollins' situation is on the other end of the spectrum from Halladay. While he might not immediately pass the "smell test" of what a Hall of Famer should be, his numbers put him in the conversation. He has more home runs than all but three of the 19 shortstops in the Hall of Fame, his 199, just ahead of Barry Larkin (198) and behind Cal Ripken's 431 and Robin Yount's 251. Ten of the 19 shortstops have better than his .752 career OPS. Three have more than his 421 stolen bases. He would rank among the top 10 Hall of Fame shortstops in runs, and in the top 12 in RBI. Only four shortstops have lower than his career 96 OPS+.
The better case against Rollins lies in the shortstops who are not Hall of Famers. Among those with more home runs and an OPS+ of at least 96 are Vern Stephens and Jose Valentin. (The OPS+ is the on-base percentage and slugging percentage adjusted for league and ballpark.) Jay Bell and Alan Trammell have similar home-run totals and higher OPS+. In Trammell's case, significantly higher. Valentin spent the equivalent of three full seasons at positions other than shortstop. Trammell has a World Series ring. So does Rollins. Rollins has an MVP and another top-10 finish, but Trammell has a second-place finish and three top-10s. Trammell peaked in 2012 when he was named on just 36.8 percent of HOF ballots. He was on 33.6 percent last year. Trammell has four Gold Gloves. So does Rollins. Trammell's career WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com, was 70.3. Rollins' is 41.9. Rollins has a slight edge in runs. Trammell has a significant edge in RBI. The feeling here is that Rollins does not get in if he retires today and the ultimate strength of his candidacy will depend on how he finishes out this contract. Two years like 2012 would make him tough to ignore simply on the strength of his home-run and stolen-base totals combined with his defensive prowess. But 2 more years like 2013 and he'll have a tough time with an electorate that has already decided, for whatever reason, that Trammell is not HOF material.
4. CHASE UTLEY
(Daily News odds: 20 to 1)
Utley's 217 home runs are already more than 12 of the 17 HOF second basemen. He has a higher OPS than all but Rogers Hornsby, Charlie Gehringer and Jackie Robinson. No second baseman who has at least 200 home runs and an OPS+ of at least 126 (Utley's career mark) is not in the Hall of Fame. But Bobby Grich had 224 home runs, a 125 OPS+ and 17 seasons played. Jeff Kent will be an interesting test case. He had 377 home runs and a 123 OPS+. Craig Biggio had 291 home runs and a 112 OPS+ (and was named on 68 percent of ballots in 2013, his first year of eligibility). Like Rollins, Utley's candidacy hangs in the balance of the 3-year contract extension he just signed. Tack on 60 home runs and 400 games to his totals and the only argument against him would be any exclusion of Kent and Biggio. But longevity is the thing that HOF voters seem to value most. And right now Utley does not have it.
5. RYAN HOWARD
(Daily News odds: 50 to 1)
There was a time when Howard projected to be in a conversation such as this, but it will take a significant resurgence to warrant it after two seasons that were essentially lost due to Achilles' and knee injuries. At this point, we have a difficult time making the case that Howard is even a top-five first baseman among his contemporaries. Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez all entered the majors within one season of Howard. Teixeira is the same age and has 30 more home runs (341 to 311) and a similar OPS+ (Howard 134, Teixeira 130) and OPS (Howard .906, Teixeira .894). Gonzalez has a 135 OPS+ and .869 OPS, and is close enough in home runs (234) that he could surpass Howard by the end of both of their careers (Gonzalez is 2 years younger).
Fielder has a 142 OPS+, a .918 OPS, and 284 home runs. Plus, he is 4 years younger. Joey Votto is undisputedly the best first baseman of the current crop with a 155 OPS+, .961 OPS and 157 home runs. He's 3 years younger than Howard. Factor in Albert Pujols, who debuted 3 years before Howard but is the same age, along with Votto and Fielder, and you have three first basemen who have clearly superior resumes. So to even discuss Howard as a potential HOFer, you would have to make a case that at least four first basemen from the same era deserve candidacy. And that is before you project the rest of Gonzalez' career, which is still in its prime.
6. JONATHAN PAPELBON and COLE HAMELS
(Off the boards)
The electorate has been extremely reluctant to induct closers, and Papelbon does not appear to be a once-in-a-generation exception. Especially when you consider that contemporaries Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner all have stronger cases. Hamels is simply too young to even consider. Five seasons like his last five (211 innings per season, a 3.28 ERA, a World Series MVP) and he'll have a strong case. But at this point it is impossible to predict whether his body will hold up for that long.
On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy