Out of Left Field: Tanaka, Kershaw, the Hall

In baseball, there is always a lull just after the World Series.  Especially after a great season such as this past one followed by and even better post season, a short hangover will hit us all as we start the countdown to pitchers and catchers.

But it ends pretty quickly.  Free agency decisions are coming up soon, and Hall of Fame balloting even before that.

Conversations about who’s worthy of Hall of Fame status and who isn’t are among the best we have as baseball fans.  My favorite player was better than yours.  The players of this era are better than the players of yesteryear, or vice versa.  It’s definitely a conversation topic that is at or near the top of most baseball fans’ lists, likely due to its ability to bridge generations.  For today’s purposes, I’m going to touch on this briefly, then I’ll come back with more detail soon.

But before I get to that, there are two things I’d like to mention that occurred between Game seven and today that I haven’t discussed yet:

Masahiro Tanaka decided not to opt out of his contract with the Yankees, meaning he’ll be staying with the Yankees for just over $22 million annually for three more seasons.

This is great news for the Yankees.  He absolutely could have received an extension and/or a raise off of his performance over the past 4 years, impressive 2017 stretch run and post season.  Not that I give post season performance too much credence, but many people do.

I understand the concerns about the elbow and durability, but all pitchers are durability risks.  Very, very few are going to throw 200 innings per year every year.  To give you some perspective, only four American League pitchers have averaged over 200 innings pitched over the past four seasons – Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Chris Archer, and Rick Porcello.

Over the past four seasons Tanaka is 13th in the American League in innings pitched.  So even with elbow issues, he’s been out there more than the overwhelming majority of starting pitchers since joining the Yankees.  Ironically, despite the reputation, he’s a safe bet relatively speaking, as far as starting pitchers go.

And obviously, his performance isn’t really open for debate.  He’s 6th in the AL in K% to BB% over the past four seasons while landing in 7th in xFIP over that stretch.  He’s unquestionably in the top 10 among AL pitchers and according to Fangraphs value rating system, has out-performed his $22 million annual salary over the past four seasons.

The Yankees should breathe a sigh of relief this didn’t become an issue.  Even putting aside the looming question marks of Sabathia and Pineda, Tanaka joining Severino, Gray, and Montgomery is a pretty good rotation.

Clayton Kershaw entered game 7 in relief on two days rest.  Despite his team trailing by 5 runs, he entered the 3rd inning with the Dodgers still having a chance.

All he did was shut down the Major League’s best offense for four innings.  He allowed 4 baserunners over 4 innings while striking out 4.

Why am I mentioning this?

Because this was as clutch a World Series performance as we’ll see, and I’m sure it’ll be mostly forgotten, primarily because his teammates hit the ball at Houston defenders during the game.  It should completely lay waste to the he “isn’t a playoff pitcher” silly narrative, but it probably won’t.


The Modern Era committee (part of what used to be the Veterans Committee) will soon vote on 16 players who played from 1970-1985 to decide if they are baseball hall of famers.  Voters can only vote for 2 nominees and they need to appear on 12 of 16 ballots, so getting in won’t be easy.  We’ll delve further into this as the fall and winter go on, I’m sure, but the nominees and my early thoughts are right here:

Steve Garvey: Don’t think so, but have to check, as he was definitely underrated.

Tommy John: Close, have to check.

Don Mattingly:  No, very sorry to say.

Marvin Miller: Absolutely yes.  Top 5 most influential people in baseball history.

Jack Morris:  No.

Dale Murphy:  Probably not.

Dave Parker: Probably not.

Ted Simmons: Yes.

Luis Tiant: No, but another underrated player.

Alan Trammell: Absolutely yes.

So if I were a voter, I’d have to pick two out of Simmons, Trammell and Miller.  My votes would go to Trammell and Miller, although Simmons is deserving.  I’ll get back to you with more on this when a silly choice is made, either to induct or omit.


Thanks as always to Fangraphs for the stats.


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