Is Justin Verlander a lock for the National Baseball Hall of Fame?
If I would have asked this question following the 2012 regular season, 99% of you would have looked a me like I had completely lost my mind. Now, after two subpar seasons according to Verlander’s standards, I pose the question, is Justin Verlander a lock for the Hall of Fame or does he still have work to do?
Most of the statistical information I will use throughout this article will come from Baseball Reference.
While doing my research for this piece I came across something on Baseball Reference called the Black-Ink Test. Here is an explanation of what exactly the Black-Ink Test is.
The essential point is to measure how often a player led the league in a variety of “important” stats. This method penalizes more recent players as they have 14-16 teams per league, while the older players had just 8. To get a point you must lead the league in that category.
- Four Points for wins, earned run average or strikeouts
- Three Points for innings pitched, win-loss percentage or saves
- Two Points for complete games, lowest walks per 9 innings or lowest hits per 9 innings
- One Point for appearances, starts or shutouts
Verlander currently has a Black-Ink score of 46, which puts him third overall when looking at pitchers not yet eligible for the Hall. The only pitchers ahead of Verlander are Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay.
Typically, if a pitcher finishes his career with a Blank-Ink score of 50 or higher they end up in the Hall of Fame, with one exception, Roger Clemens (100).
Like I said above, Verlander is sitting with a Black-Ink score of 46, and though he is only 32-years-old there is no guarantee he gets to the magic Black-Ink score of 50 that would end the debate.
So for the sake of this debate, let’s go on the assumption Velander does not earn any more points and finishes his career with 46, would that be enough for voters to put him in the Hall of Fame?
Well, let’s take a look at some of the pitchers that have been elected into the Hall of Fame with a Black-Ink score of 46 or lower.
Jim Palmer (44), Phil Niekro (43), John Smoltz (34), and Tom Glavine (29) just to name a few, were elected to the Hall of Fame with a Black-Ink score lower than 46.
So, based on the Black-Ink Test alone, Verlander seems to be a pretty safe bet to make the Hall of Fame, but by no means is it a lock.
Some people absolutely hate the WAR argument, especially Tigers’ fans when comparing Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. That being said, I absolutely love the WAR stat when comparing players, so we will look at it in regards to how Justin Verlander stacks up against other Hall of Fame pitchers.
Before me move on, click here for a breakdown of what exactly WAR means.
The average WAR of pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame is 70. Justin Verlander’s current WAR is 41.7 which would put him above 12 current Hall of Fame pitchers. Though one of those is Babe Ruth, who had a WAR of 20.59 for pitching but also had a WAR of 163 for batting.
Verlander has not really given any hints on how much longer he plans on pitching, other than the the fact he is signed through the 2019 season. So, for this argument we will be conservative and say he plays five more seasons to put him at 14 full seasons played.
In order to reach the Hall of Fame average WAR of 70, Verlander would have to average a 7.66 WAR over the next five seasons. To put things into perspective, Verlander has only hit that number twice in his career and to be honest I would be floored if he ever hit it again.
When looking at other Hall of Fame pitchers who pitched 14 seasons in Major League Baseball, Verlander may have a shot.
Looking at the total WAR of those pitchers we can see that Verlander would likely make it onto the end of that list if he pitched five more full seasons.
If WAR was towards the top of the list voters look at before making their decision, I would say Verlander has about a 20% chance of making the Hall of Fame.
I believe if Justin Verlander was to end his career today, he would eventually be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but it would not be a lock.
He has been Rookie of the Year, won a Cy Young award, and has been voted as the Most Valuable Player in the American League. This feat would be enough to break any tie in the minds of many of the voters.
In order for Verlander to be considered a lock for the Hall of Fame, he will have to go out and pitch another five seasons of above average baseball. Doing that would most likely clear up any doubt the writers may have when it comes to voting.
The question remains, does Justin Verlander have five more above average seasons in him, or will his decline over the past couple of years continue?