Billy Wagner deserves to be in the Hall of Fame
The Houston Astros' official Twitter account posed a question for us all this morning: should Billy Wagner be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame?
Career relievers rarely make the Hall of Fame--this we know. Only eight relievers have been enshrined: Goose Gossage, Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, Lee Smith, Trevor Hoffman, and Mariano Rivera. A lifelong reliever getting elected is a rarity.
You know what else is a rarity? A reliever racking up the career numbers and accolades of the great Billy Wagner. The flame-throwing lefty dominated over his 16 years, going 47-40 with a 2.31 ERA, 187 ERA+, and 0.99 WHIP.
As the Astros tweet pointed out, were Wagner enshrined, his 11.92 strikeouts per nine would rank first amongst Hall of Fame relievers. So would his .187 opponent batting average. His 2.31 ERA would rank second amongst his Hall of Fame peers and his 85.9 save percentage would place him third.
He's currently sixth all-time on the saves list, ahead of Eckersley, Gossage, Fingers and Willhelm.
Though the Astros tweet didn't point this out, his WHIP would also be the lowest amongst Hall of Fame relievers. In fact, no other reliever has a career WHIP below one.
No matter how the numbers are broken down, the answer is simple, Billy Wagner is a Hall of Fame pitcher. The Hall of Fame is not the Hall of Very Good. It is reserved for the truly elite at their craft. Very, very few pitchers have ever been as elite at their craft as Billy Wagner.
Is he the best? Maybe not. With eight currently enshrined, is he one of the top-eight? Undoubtedly.
Of the known ballots, Wagner has been voted for on 73%. The threshold to get in is 75%. As the ballots are tallied, any result other than Wagner's election will be a travesty.
It's long past time. To answer the Astros question of, "should Billy Wagner be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame?" Undoubtedly, yes!