Saturday, April 30, 2005


The Best LHP Pitcher Ever?

Reading The Daily Quickie at Page 2 the other day, I saw a part on the right that said, "Arguably the best LHP ever" in regards to Randy Johnson. I see it, and go well it may be true, but of course now I have to know for sure. On to the numbers!

What I did to start is take every lefty on the top 100 for career wins; I figured I would get more than I need and not miss out on anyone (Note: I remembered to take Koufax though, he of the 165 wins):

Randy Johnson
Steve Carlton
Sandy Koufax
Warren Spahn
Eddie Plank
Lefty Grove
Tommy John
Jim Kaat
Eppa Rixey
Tom Glavine
Carl Hubbell
Herb Pennock
Frank Tanana
Whitey Ford
Jerry Koosman
Jerry Reuss
Earl Whitehill
Mickey Lolich
Wilbur Cooper
David Wells
Billy Pierce
Vida Blue
Hal Newhouse

I included those just for the sake of showing them off; the discussion is going to take place among the best of these pitchers. Here are some important career numbers so far (ERA is from the Davenport Translated Cards, so ERA is translated for all-time):

Randy Johnson: 129.0 WARP3, 45.3 Peak WARP, 87.15 JAWS, 1308 PRAR, 4195 K, 1308 BB, 3.01 ERA

Steve Carlton: 130.7 WARP3, 40.4 Peak WARP, 85.55 JAWS, 1403 PRAR, 4,136 K, 1833 BB, 3.45 ERA

Sandy Koufax: 68.8 WARP3, 47.8 Peak WARP, 58.3 JAWS, 785 PRAR, 2396 K, 817 BB, 2.70 ERA

Warren Spahn: 161.3 WARP3, 50.4 Peak WARP, 105.85 JAWS, 1651 PRAR, 2583 K, 1434 BB, 3.18 ERA

Lefty Grove: 127 WARP3, 49.1 Peak WARP, 88.05 JAWS, 1297 PRAR, 2266 K, 1187 BB, 2.99 ERA

Tom Glavine: 122.0 WARP3, 42.1 Peak WARP, 82.05 JAWS, 1221 PRAR, 2262 K, 1292 BB, 3.51 ERA

Carl Hubbell: 100.8 WARP3, 54.6 Peak WARP, 77.7 JAWS, 1027 PRAR, 1677 K, 725 BB, 3.37 ERA

Hal Newhouse: 102.4 WARP3, 60.6 Peak WARP, 81.5 JAWS, 1005 PRAR, 1796 K, 1249 BB, 3.08 ERA

The bolded number is the leader in each category; if we go simply by counting categories, Warren Spahn is the greatest southpaw of all-time. Johnson is the most dominant pitcher on the list, with the most K, but the greatest performances seem to come from Hal Newhouse's brilliant 5-year peak (netting that 60.6 Peak WARP) and Spahn's career length, plus his 11 years in a row hovering around 8-11 WARP3 per season merits massive kudos. If Johnson is able to be dominant for another 3-4 seasons, we might see him topple Spahn. Let's take just the two of them next to each other, and throw a few more numbers Johnson's way to see if he can pass Spahn in career value, and therefore as the greatest lefty of all-time.

Johnson has been given 7.5 WARP3 for the next 3 seasons, plus 100 PRAR for the next 3 years, with additional K's and BB's thrown into the mix as well.

Randy Johnson: 151.5 WARP3, 45.3 Peak WARP, 98.4 JAWS, 1608 PRAR, 4870 K, 1503 BB

Warren Spahn: 161.3 WARP3, 50.4 Peak WARP, 105.85 JAWS, 1651 PRAR, 2583 K, 1434 BB

With these additions to Johnson, he is close enough in WARP, JAWS, and PRAR that we may able to state a case for him as the greatest left-handed of all time. Surely, given a fourth season of 7.5 (which would be fair, since he could post an 10 or 11 and a 5.5 or so in the next 4 years) as well as another 100 PRAR, we come to this:

Randy Johnson: 159.0 WARP3, 45.3 Peak WARP, 102.15 JAWS, 1708 PRAR, 5095 K, 1499 BB

Warren Spahn: 161.3 WARP3, 50.4 Peak WARP, 105.85 JAWS, 1651 PRAR, 2583 K, 1434 BB

That last season of added on may very well be what Johnson needs to surpass Warren Spahn as the greatest southpaw in history. His WARP3 and JAWS scores are close enough, especially considering the massive gap in strikeouts and the 57 additional PRAR. Will Johnson be able to get the additional 30 WARP and 400 PRAR in the next 4 years? Maybe not (he will be 45 by then after all) but that is what it may take to take the imaginary crown away from Warren Spahn as baseball's premier lefthander. It is not that out of the picture; Johnson has come on strong the older he has gotten, and Spahn retired when he was 44. He was not effective his last 3 seasons, but maybe conditioning, better health, and the fact that Johnson's dominance has not withered may help him string those extra years together. If not, then we have a definitive answer for the greatest lefty of all-time in Warren Spahn.

Note: I answered a few questions over at Friendly Fenway today, check that out.

One more thing; anyone who comes to this page often knows that I don't agree with Skip Bayless often, if at all. But here is a time where his insistency to cause controversy has merit and I'm glad he did it. Make sure you all read this.

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