Of all the players on this list, Billy Wagner is probably the only one who would be wearing an Astros cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. For that reason, and because of his sheer dominance, many Houston fans are rallying behind his candidacy. I’m of the belief that he’s the best left-handed reliever of all time and quite possibly the second-best relief pitcher ever.
Wagner’s 422 saves are sixth all-time, which is an impressive total but not necessarily a transcendent number. His case is better illustrated by comparing him to Trevor Hoffman, who’s already in the Hall of Fame. Hoffman’s 601 saves are second only to Mariano Rivera, but Wagner has him beat in almost every other category.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
Wagner is better than Hoffman in ERA (2.31 vs 2.87), WHIP (0.998 vs 1.058), hits per nine (6.0 vs 7.0), strikeouts per nine (11.9 vs 9.4), adjusted ERA (187 vs 141), FIP (2.73 vs 3.08) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.99 vs 3.69). In fact, Wagner struck out more batters than Hoffman (1196 vs 1133) despite pitching 186.1 fewer innings.
Hoffman’s more impressive save total is the reason he’s in Cooperstown, but Wagner was simply the better pitcher. In fact, Wagner’s stats aside from the saves are closer to Rivera’s than Hoffman’s. By that standard, Wagner should absolutely be in the Hall of Fame, and considering he pitched nine of his 16 major league seasons with the Astros, he holds a special place in the hearts of Houston fans.
His candidacy got off to a slow start, but he’s making gains. After hovering in the 10-11 percent range his first three years, he jumped to 16.7 percent in 2019 and 31.7 percent in 2020. So far this year, he’s appeared on 48.7 percent of public ballots, so it looks to be another step forward for him. With four years of eligibility remaining after this, his support is quickly growing, so he has a legitimate chance to eventually make the Hall of Fame.