Last night we watched CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke pitch a very competitive game as the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees, 3-1. Sabathia gave up only two runs in 5.1 innings and notched his 3,000th strikeout against John Ryan Murphy, a catcher he used to throw to when Murphy was with the Yankees. Greinke, meanwhile, pitched 7.2 strong innings against an albeit depleted Yankee lineup and won his fifth game in six decisions. The Diamondbacks are 6-1 when Greinke pitches. Did we witness a future Hall Of Fame match up?
For better or worse, Roy Halladay's inclusion in the Hall of Fame on top of that of Jack Morris has changed the equation a bit with starting pitchers. Morris, we will not discuss at all as his inclusion was ridiculous. Halladay was one of the first "modern" pitchers voted into the Hall with the new emphasis of shorter outings, pitch counts and heavy bullpen usage--though Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina could also be in that conversation.
Halladay finished with a Wins Above Replacement total of 64.5 (baseball-reference.com) or 65.4 (fangraphs.com). According to JAWS, he is the 43rd best starting pitcher of all time. Halladay finished with a 203 wins, a .659 Winning Percentage, a 3.39 career FIP and 2117 strikeouts. He won two Cy Young Awards and finished in the top five in that award five other times.
If Roy Halladay is our new bottom standard for Hall of Fame pitchers (no disrespect meant), then where do CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke stand? Let's start with Greinke as he seems to have a more solid argument.
Zack Greinke has two more years on his contract and is 35-years-old. At his current rate of productivity, he will add a bit to his resume. Greinke currently has compiled 66.9 career WAR (Fangraphs.com lists him more than ten wins lower!) and JAWS considers him the 47th best pitcher of all time. He won his 192nd game yesterday, good for a .617 winning percentage. He has a 3.40 career FIP and 2,481 strikeouts. He was won Cy Young Award and was screwed out of another and has finished in the top five as recently as two years ago.
Greinke is also one of the best fielding pitchers of his generation and arguably his generation's best hitting pitcher. It can easily be speculated that Greinke will finish with near 210 wins, 2,600 strikeouts and 68-70 WAR.
CC Sabathia is in his last season. Whatever he compiles this season will be it. And with the Yankees' quick bullpen trigger, Sabathia does not get the chance to pile up a lot of decisions. He made 29 starts last year and only figured in 16 decisions (Greinke figured in 26 decisions in his 33 starts). Sabathia currently has Wins Over Replacement totals of 63.2 (b-ref) and 66.4 (fWAR). Sabathia has 247 wins and should go over the 250 mark by season's end. And, as stated, he reached 3,000 strikeouts last night. Sabathia has a .616 winning percentage and should not finish under .614 even if things go flooey. Sabathia used to be a good hitter but has not had a hit since 2009 and is laughably one of the worst fielding pitchers of his generation.
JAWS considers Sabathia the 68th best starting pitcher of all time. But, he is also only the third left-handed pitcher to record 3,000 strikeouts and the last pitcher to compile ten complete games in a season AND 250 innings.
Roy Halladay had big moments in the post season. Who can ever forget that perfect game? Greinke and Sabathia have been okay in the post season but not great.
Personally, Zack Greinke is a lock. Since he left the Kansas City Royals after 2011, he has won over 70% of his decisions. That is still an important statistic to me. He has been effective even for teams who play in hitters' parks like Milwaukee and Arizona. I believe him to be one of the most underrated pitchers of his generation.
CC Sabathia will be an interesting case. The 3,000 strikeouts are impressive. The legend of what he did that season for Milwaukee will never grow old in the telling. He might just be the last pitcher to win 250 games. Pitching for the Yankees will be a blessing and a curse for his case. I think he is on the bubble which might get blown in after all is said and done.
Personally, if I had a vote, I would vote Sabathia, Greinke and Justin Verlander into the Hall of Fame. Time will tell how the voters really feel about the trio. All three are at least better than Jack Morris.