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  • E.J. Fagan

Will Gerrit Cole Make the Hall of Fame?

by EJ Fagan

February 2024

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NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.


Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.

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Gerrit Cole feels like a Hall of Famer. When he signed his 9-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees, he was widely regarded as one of the top two or three pitchers in the major leagues. But let’s take a closer look at the numbers.


Cole has 40.7 career fWAR, just ahead of a bunch of recently retired or mostly finished players: Corey Kluber, Adam Wainwright, Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto are all in the 32-40 fWAR range. None of those guys are Hall of Famers, but all but maybe Wainwright had periods where they were considered one of the top two or three starting pitchers in the majors.


Unlike this group, Cole is still at the top of his game. He won his first Cy Young award at 32 and has received votes in every season since his 2018 breakout in Houston.

The group ahead of Cole is pretty interesting:



The top-four are all no doubt Hall of Famers. Sale and DeGrom might get there, but will have to fight bad health. Cole has been as healthy as can be, but is still entering his mid-30s. Continued effectiveness and health are no guarantees, even if Cole is at the top of his game right now.


Let’s look at where some modern starting pitchers ended up in bWAR:

  • Roy Halladay - 65 bWAR

  • CC Sabathia - 62 bWAR

  • David Cone - 62 bWAR

  • Andy Pettitte - 61 bWAR

  • Mark Buerhle - 60 bWAR

  • Cole Hamels - 58 bWAR

  • Tim Hudson - 57 bWAR

  • Johan Santana - 51 bWAR

Roy Halladay was voted into the Hall pretty easily. CC Sabathia hasn’t appeared on the ballot yet, but I imagine he’ll get in. All of the others have either dropped off the ballot or aren’t going to make it.


Cole has a bit of a vibes advantage. He feels like a Hall of Famer, after all. Most of us don’t remember his merely above average Pittsburgh years. He feels like a more dominant player than 41 bWAR. Let’s assume that he needs to hit Sabathia’s 62 bWAR to get in. Let’s assume he plays seven more years, or the life of his current contract with the extra opt out year. That comes out to an average of 3 bWAR/year.


Cole is coming off a 7 bWAR season, his best ever. He led the majors in innings pitched and ERA. He was a bit worse in 2021-22, worth 5.7 and 2.5 bWAR. Cole doesn’t feel like he’s ready to drop off a cliff right away, but he will eventually. How did some similar pitchers age?


Max Scherzer

  • Through Age 32: 44.2 bWAR

  • Age 33: 7.9 bWAR

  • Age 34: 5.2 bWAR

  • Age 35: 2.2 bWAR (2020)

  • Age 36: 6.1 bWAR

  • Age 37: 5.2 bWAR

  • Age 38: 3.3 bWAR

Justin Verlander

  • Through Age 32: 44.1 bWAR

  • Age 33: 5.3 bWAR

  • Age 34: 6.9 bWAR

  • Age 35: 6.3 bWAR

  • Age 36: 7.4 bWAR

  • Age 37: 0 bWAR (2020)

  • Age 38: 0 bWAR (Tommy John

  • Age 39: 5.7 bWAR

Cole Hamels

  • Through Age 32: 48.8 bWAR

  • Age 33: 3.0 bWAR

  • Age 34: 1.3 bWAR

  • Age 35: 2.7 bWAR

  • Age 36: 0 bWAR (retired)

CC Sabathia

  • Through Age 32: 52.2 bWAR

  • Age 33: -0.6 bWAR

  • Age 34: 1.1 bWAR

  • Age 35: 3.1 bWAR

  • Age 36: 2.8 bWAR

  • Age 37: 1.8 bWAR

  • Age 38: 0.4 bWAR

I was a little surprised that Sabathia and Hamels were better off through their 32nd birthday than Scherzer, Verlander or Cole. Cole is the worst of the group at 32, but both Sabathia and Hamels were already in decline by this point. Cole is peaking.


Scherzer and Verlander are Hall of Famers because of what they did in their mid-30s. Not counting 2020, Verlander averaged about 5 bWAR per season (including one lost to Tommy John), while Scherzer was around 4.5 bWAR.


Can Cole match them? I think he’s a good bet to do so. All three are big, strong hard-throwing righties with clean deliveries who are intense competitors. Cole is probably a little less talented than Verlander and Scherzer, but he’s still pretty talented. I could imagine a career path that looks something like 4 bWAR on average per season through the end of his contract. He would finish in the high 60s for his career, firmly in the modern HOF tier.


But, Cole doesn’t need to completely collapse to make the Hall. David Cone had a similar career entering his age-33 season, with 42 bWAR, one Cy Young award and lots of recent Cy Young votes. He was productive for a bit, posting seasons of 2.8, 6.7, 4.0 and 5.1 bWAR from ages 33-36. He then fell off a cliff, putting up essentially nothing from 37-40 as injuries slowed him down. Cone finished right on that HOF borderline with 62 bWAR.


I think Cole still makes the Hall if he matches Cone’s career. Expectations for a pitcher were higher back then, when more pitchers regularly posted 200+ innings. 62 bWAR is more impressive for a pitcher today than for someone who came up in the 80s and 90s. More importantly, Cole feels like a strong bet to remain productive for most of his contract.

4 Comments


Len
Len
Feb 25

Surprising Cone isn't in.

Like

jeff
Feb 25

When Cole retires, I envision seeing him remaining in baseball, either as a pitching coach, or as a network color commentator. He is a student of the pitching part of the game, and he knows pitching inside and out.

Like

fuster
Feb 24

Cole might well pitch well for another decade


I envision him as someone who takes care of himself

Like

Melfman1
Melfman1
Feb 24

Health will be his only potential concern. With his stuff, if he can stay on the field, it’s likely he can make the Hall. Winning a championship and/or another Cy Young will also help his case.

Like
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