MLB: Johan Santana Is Not a Hall of Famer, and a Comeback Won’t Change That
Even if he successfully makes a return to MLB, Johan Santana won’t help his Hall of Fame candidacy much.
Let me just kick this off by saying that Johan Santana is not a Hall of Fame pitcher. Santana is reportedly attempting yet another comeback to the major leagues. It is highly unlikely that he will get the opportunity to make an MLB starting rotation at age 37.
Regardless of whether or not a team takes a flyer on Santana, it won’t affect his HOF chances. Santana was arguably the best pitcher in baseball during his prime from 2004-2008. However, Santana like many players before him was bit by the injury bug and never regained the dominance of his past.
Santana finished his career with a 139-78 record, sporting a .641 winning percentage. He struck out 1,988 batters, had a 3.20 career ERA and won two Cy Young Awards. He was a four-time All-Star who won the pitching triple crown in 2006 and tossed the Mets’ first no-hitter in team history in 2012. Santana also won a Gold Glove in 2007 and led the league in ERA three times.
Santana’s numbers were very good, but the Hall of Fame is not for the very good – it’s for the very best. I have heard people often use the Sandy Koufax comparison when discussing Santana’s HOF potential. These comparisons are simply not warranted.
Johan Santana and Koufax share similar overall regular season stats. However, when you look at the full body of work, it’s really not that close. Koufax still finished with more wins, a lower ERA, more strikeouts and a higher winning percentage. Koufax was a three-time Cy Young Award winner and a seven-time All Star. He was a three-time triple crown award winner and five-time ERA leader. Koufax is also one of only 10 pitchers in history to win both the Cy Young and MVP in the same season. Koufax also tossed four no-hitters, including a perfect game to boot.
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For those who still think it is close enough to consider, the trump card has yet to be played. The regular season is one thing, but the playoffs are another. Santana was 1-3 in five playoff appearances with a 3.97 ERA. Koufax is a four-time World Series champion and sported a 0.95 ERA in the postseason.
It is probably more appropriate to compare Johan Santana to a pitcher like Brett Saberhagen. Saberhagen was also a two-time Cy Young award winner, three-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove. He was an ERA and wins leader in 1989 and threw a no-hitter. Saberhagen also won a World Series and was named the series MVP. He finished his career with a 167-117 record with 1,715 strikeouts and a 3.34 lifetime ERA. Saberhagen only received seven votes on the ballot in 2007 and was dropped due to lack of support the next year.
With the 2017 HOF voting season over, the 2018 class is on deck. As of now Johan Santana would be set to make his debut on the ballot. Even if Santana was to resurrect his career for even one or two seasons, the performance needed for him to get serious consideration for the hall of fame would need to be monumental. He has fewer wins than guys like Scott Erickson, Bronson Arroyo and Bobby Witt. His career ERA ranks 249th all-time and he has only one career postseason win.
Johan Santana had a very good career, but not a Hall of Fame career. His career is very similar to those of Saberhagen, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum. With guys like Jack Morris and Jim Kaat not getting the call either, it is highly unlikely that Santana even remains on the ballot after his first year. At this point the only numbers that would benefit from a Santana return would be those in his bank account.