The Case For Glavine's Greatness

Tom Glavine has accumulated several outstanding achievements in his career. He won the 1991 Cy Young Award, has been a 20-game winner three times, and has been named to the All Star team on six occasions. He has won four games in the World Series, including decisive Game Six of the 1995 Series.

However, does he have a chance to receive baseball's ultimate honor-election to the Hall Of Fame?

The gauge Glavine's Hall Of Fame chances, we will compare him to four lefthanders who have made it to Cooperstown. Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, and Steve Carlton and the only left-handed starters in the Hall Of Fame who pitched primarily after World War II.

The statistics for each of these pitchers through age 31 are shown below compared to those of Glavine at the same age. Glavine turned 32 just before the start of this season. Therefore, hisi stats are through the end of the '97 season.
Ford 105-40 .724 1,357.2 1,107 392 575 801 2.60
Koufax 165-87 .655 2,324.1 1,754 713 815 2396 2.76
Spahn 122-91 .573 1,884.0 1,686 637 587 1000 3.04
Carlton 168-126 .571 2,196.1 2,068 830 743 2111 3.40
Glavine 153-99 .607 2,196.1 2068 830 743 1364 3.40
Glavine has the third-most wins and the third-best winning percentage. Howevr, he comes in last if you rank the pitchers by earned run average.

Glavine's ERA has been hurt by two different factors. First, he has pitched in an era dominated by hitters. In addition, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, a notorious hitters' paradise, was his home park through the end of 1996.

These five pitchers had drastically different innings pitched totals through age 31. Therefore, their hits, walks and strikeout totals are all expressed per nine innings in the next chart. They are ranked by strikeouts per nine innings.
---------H/9 IP-BB/9 IP-SO/9 IP---
Koufax 6.79---3.16----9.28
Carlton 8.02--3.20----7.03
Glavine 8.47--3.04----5.59
Ford 7.34----3.81----5.31
Spahn 8.05----2.80----4.78
Glavine came in third in strikeouts per nine innings, and he allowed the second fewest walks per nine innings. He did allow the most hits per nine innings, though his figure was not significantly higher than Carlton's or Spahn's.

It is hard to compare pitchers on teams of different quality. Glavine has played on several outstanding Braves teams. However, Atlanta averaged 100 losses per season in Glavine's first three full seasons. Before Ford turned 32, the Yankees worst record was 92-52. A good way to compensate for the quality of pitchers' teams is to compare their winning percentage to their teams' winning percentage over the same time frame.
Koufax .655 .560 +.095
Ford .724 .635 +.089
Glavine .607 .537 +.070
Spahn .573 .517 +.056
Carlton .571 .526 +.046
Both Ford and Koufax were outstanding in this catergory. But Glavine isn't far behind.

Overall, Glavine is behind where Koufax and Ford were at this stage of their careers. Remarkably, Koufax retired at age 30; therefore these statistics are the same as his career numbers. Glavine had statistics that were very comparable, through age 31, to Spahn and Carlton. Below are their average seasonal statistics through age 31.
Spahn 17-13 269.0 241 91 84 143 3.04
Carlton 17-13 270.1 241 93 96 211 3.10
Glavine 15-10 219.2 207 83 136 3.40
Glavine's average season is quite similar to Spahn's, except that pitchers logged more innings pitched in Spahn's era. Aside from strikeouts and innings pitched, Glavine is also very close to Carlton. Glavine has a better winning percentage than either pitcher.

Though Glavine is on par with Carlton and Spahn, this hardly makes him a lock for the Hall Of Fame. Spahn went on to pitch for 13 more seasons, and he won 241 more games! Carlton won 161 more games and struck out 2,025 more batters.

Glavine is definitely on the right track though. One key milestone is the 225-win plateau. There have only been 11 lefties in history to win this many games, and eight are in the Hall Of Fame (including Spahn, Carlton, and Ford). If Glavine wins 20 this year, a very attainable goal, he win be only 52 wins from the 225 mark. He could reach this total with three more strong seasons.

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