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The HOF case for Johan Santana

Is the Peak Enough???

Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Johan Santana pitched in the Bigs for twelve years, and appeared on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot in 2018. Sadly, Santana was dropped from the ballot in his first year of eligibility, receiving only 2.4 percent of the votes. His next chance to make it will be in 2029 when he appears on the Today’s Game section of Era Committee voting.

In his twelve years of baseball Santana played seven of them with the Twins. During his big league tenure he pitched his way into many accolades. He is a four-time All-Star, a Gold Glove winner, and, most importantly, two Cy Young Awards. That’s right, TWO!! He is the last Twin to win the award and also won the Triple Crown in 2006. So at the end of the day...he was pretty good.

The Case

Career stats-

3.20/1.132/8.8 (ERA/WHIP/K9)

139 wins, 2025.2 IP, 1988 K

Career War- 51.7

Johan Santana not only collected many accolades throughout his career, but he also pitched several games that are worth mentioning. In August of 2007, Santana pitched a 17 strikeout, two hit, shutout through 8 innings. This marked a Twins record for most strikeouts in a game by an individual in a 9 inning game. It is also worth mentioning that Santana earned a game score of 95 for his efforts. It is one of the highest game scores in a non-complete game to date. In June of 2012, Santana no-hit the Cardinals, thus pitching, so far, the only no-hitter in Mets history. Perhaps his greatest achievement is his Triple Crown in 2006. Santana won it with 19 wins, 245 strikeouts, and a 2.77 ERA, becoming one of only 26 pitchers to accomplish this feat. Until Jake Peavy won his Triple Crown the next year, Santana’s was the only one to accomplish it with less than 20 wins. Santana led the league in strikeouts three times in his career, same with ERA, and he also led the league in IP and GS twice. From 2004-08 Santana was an absolute workhorse, pitching over 200 innings in each season.

During his time in the bigs, Santana was very, very good. He enjoyed a peak in his career that lasted about 8 of his 12 years. Toward the end of his career he dealt with a torn shoulder capsule and a torn Achilles. Legend has it that the 134-pitch no-no was the tipping point of his career, as he would go on to pitch to the tune of a 8 ERA over the next ten starts. It is quite a fitting ending for a pitcher, you pitch the best game of your career but it ends it. Kinda like For Love of the Game, except Kevin Costner retired after that game...anyway, Santana dominated the mid 2000’s with his amazing change-up, but was it enough to earn him immortality in Cooperstown?

The Chances

Appears on the 2029 Today’s Game ballot

Johan Santana’s Chances (According to Baseball Reference)

HOF Monitor

Santana’s War- 82 Average HOFer- ~100

Chances? Medium-Low


Santana’s JAWS Statline- 51.1 career WAR/ 45.0 7-year peak/ 48.3 JAWS Score

Average HOF (SP)- 73.3 career WAR/ 50.0 7-year peak/ 61.6 JAWS Score

Chances? Low

There are a couple of Hall of Famers that have kind of comparable careers with Santana—but not really.

They are Lefty Gomez and Carl Hubbell, both left handed starting pitchers that are in the Hall of Fame. They both played in the same time period both ending their careers in 1943 and both dominating the sport. Hubbell won two MVPs and Lefty Gomez pitched himself to two Triple Crowns. Both of these pitchers would for sure have Cy Youngs, but the award was not introduced until 1956. The one I want to focus on however, is Lefty Gomez.

Grove played from 1930 to 1943, playing for the Evil Empire alongside several remnants of the Murderer’s Row team of 1927. He was a seven time All-Star and won five World Series rings. But looking at his stats for his career, I don’t think he would be in unless he had won those World Series’. He did not have a Hall of Fame career, only 189 wins, a 3.34 ERA, and only a measly 1468 strikeouts. Now Santana also floats around there, having 50 less wins, but more strikeouts, and better ERA.

Taking the peaks of their careers here is a side by side of the best seven years.

Lefty Gomez (1931-1937) Johan Santana (2003-2009)

3.12 ERA 2.88

1084 Strikeouts 1504

1737.2 Innings Pitched 1471.2

133 Wins 111

133 ERA+ 153

36.1 WAR 43.1

It is clear that Santana was better. Gomez won more games and pitched a lot more innings, but Santana was just more dominant. These stats include both of Gomez’s Triple Crowns and Santana’s Cy Youngs and Triple Crown.

Overall, I don’t think he’ll make it. Santana’s peak was awesome, but injury and a relatively short career weigh down the other end of the scale. Even comparing him to Gomez was quite nit-picky, but that’s what I’m here to do!

What’re your thoughts?

Will Johan Santana make it to Cooperstown in 2029?