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David Cone, Dwight Gooden, and the Hall of Fame

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by user Timothy Moreland(Bball3345)

This post in one of the articles discussing Gooden sparked me to write this article...

Anonymous Fanatic: "Gooden was my favorite player growing up, but any talk of him making the HOF or comparing him to Koufax is just idle chatter meant to provoke. His lifetime ERA+ was 110 vs. Koufax's 131. You're basically making a case for Jamie Moyer being in the Hall (career 107 ERA+). You want to talk about a borderline HOF former Met (and Yankee), discuss David Cone. 194 career wins probably won't do it, but he had eight absolutely dominating years from '92 through '99, was part of a World Series winner and has a Cy Young to his credit. He's a much better candidate than Doctor K."

First, the topic of comparing Gooden to Koufax has been exhausted so we will skip ahead to David Cone vs. Dwight Gooden and Cone's chances at the Hall.

To start it off, a method known as JAWS was created by Jay Jaffe at BaseballProspectus. It combines a players peak value with their career value to produce a number judging their worthiness of the Hall. The following chart lists pitchers eligible for the Hall of Fame with the highest JAWS scores. The average Hall of Fame pitcher scores an 80.6 on the JAWS scale. By this chart, it appears as if Bert Blyleven should be a shoo-in, but there are many other pitchers who should be discussed before looking at Gooden and Cone.

Bert Blyleven 91

Rick Reuschel 74.55

Frank Tanana 74.1

Tommy John 69.2

Dave Stieb 67.25

Chuck Finley 67.15

Bucky Walters 66.7

Orel Hershiser 66.4

Bret Saberhagen 66.25

Kevin Appier 66.2

Luis Tiant 65.9

Charlie Hough 65.15

Dennis Martinez 65.1

Jim Kaat 63.55

Billy Pierce 62.9

Jack Morris 62.85

Murry Dickson 62.45

David Cone 62.4

Wes Ferrell 62.2

Larry Jackson 61.9

Dutch Leonard 61.7

Jimmy Key 61.5

Bob Friend 61.15

Wilbur Wood 60.5

Mark Langston 60.1

Frank Viola 59.6

Ned Garver 59.3

Dwight Gooden 59.15

For another perspective, Bill James created multiple measures of a players chances at the Hall. The first score is the players and the second score is the number of an expected Hall of Famer. Only on one does Cone meet the requirements, and only barely still.

David Cone

Black Ink 19 40

Gray Ink 165 185

HOF Standards 39.0 50

HOF Monitor 103.0 100

Dwight Gooden fails to meet any of the limits.

Dwight Gooden

Black Ink 23 40

Gray Ink 139 185

HOF Standards 40.0 50

HOF Monitor 88.5 100

Here is a comparison of the top eight seasons by Cone and Gooden, ranked by Pitching Runs Above Replacement, a Baseball Prospectus stat.

David Cone Best Eight Years
1993 254.0 137 87
1994 171.7 140 77
1988 231.3 145 73
1991 232.7 111 72
1997 195.0 158 71
1998 207.7 126 70
1999 193.3 130 67
1990 211.7 116 64

Dwight Gooden Best Eight Years
1985 276.7 226 120
1984 218.0 137 71
1993 208.7 114 70
1986 250.0 124 62
1987 179.7 119 60
1988 248.3 101 55
1990 232.7 98 58
1991 190.0 101 54

If you take out the top season of Gooden's, which was remarkable, then a clear advantage goes to Cone. In fact, Gooden had a below average ERA in 1990 and barely above average in 1991 and 1988. A Hall of Famer cannot be around league average in three of his best eight career years. David Cone keeps his ERA well away from the league average for his best eight years.

From what I see, neither Gooden nor Cone are very strong candidates for the Hall of Fame. If I had to choose one, then Cone would be my pick. Without Gooden's incredible Cy Young year, he is nothing more than a very good pitcher who squandered a boatload of talent. Cone had a series of nice seasons but also had some mediocore ones as well. His career as a whole ranks him as one of the better pitchers to play the game but not one of the best. Allowing Cone in would open up the gates for a ton of other similar pitchers to be elected. The best pitcher as of today that has not found his way into the Hall of Fame is Bert Blyleven. He had a higher peak than Cone and had at least 14 good seasons. Blyleven combines peak and longevity to create what a Hall of Famer should be.


Fri 04/07/06, 11:28 am EST

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