CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Corey Kluber became the 19th pitcher in baseball history to win multiple Cy Young Awards.
Of that group, 10 of those pitchers are in the Hall of Fame. Three of them, including 2017 National League winner Max Scherzer, 2017 finalist Clayton Kershaw and the late Roy Halladay, will be voted in on their first ballot. One of them is the only seven-time winner, Roger Clemens, who is being kept out of Cooperstown due to his involvement in doping allegations.
That leaves Kluber, Tim Lincecum, Denny McLain, Bret Saberhagen and Johan Santana as those left out of the hall. Santana, up for election this year, and Lincecum, on the ballot in 2021 should he remain retired, could still be elected without the Veterans Committee.
Kluber, 31, is the oldest of the group when they nabbed their second award. It took more starts than Santana and Lincecum and fewer than Saberhagen and McLain.
Apparently, two Cy Young awards do not guarantee a immortalization in Cooperstown, as they obviously should not. Being the best pitcher in one league does not make you one of the greatest 317 players and counting.
So, what would it take to move Kluber out of McLain/Saberhagen territory to that of Bob Gibson, Tom Glavine and Gaylord Perry, the only two-timers to get inducted?
Of the non-Hall of Famers in that two-win group, Saberhagen pitched the most innings, 2562 2/3 over 16 years and 371 starts. Next on that list is Santana, who barely cracked 2000. Of those in, Bob Gibson pitched the fewest innings, going 3884 1/3 frames over 17 seasons, even winning an MVP in 1968 with a 1.12 ERA.
Kluber passed the 1000-inning mark in 2017, his age 31 season, by which point Santana, Lincecum and Saberhagen had broken down. McLain’s career was derailed by his involvement in organized crime off the field.
If he were to win a third honor in the next few years, it would be a different conversation completely. For now, based on past results, Kluber has not done enough to be a Hall of Famer. There is still plenty of time for him to add to his legacy.
Saberhagen has a decent resume, with five seasons of a 5+ bWAR, yet received only seven votes in 2007, and was not eligible for the next ballot. McLain never received more than 0.7% of votes.
It would be difficult to bridge the gap between the Saberhagens and Santanas to the Gibsons and Glavines because of the giant difference in time in the league.
For what it is worth, in Kluber’s four full-time seasons in the majors carry an average bWAR of 6.5, while Glavine’s best four years averaged 6.475. Kluber’s 4.2 bWAR in 2015 is his lowest mark as a full-timer, still an impressive mark, but Glavine has five more seasons between 4.0 and 4.9 bWAR, all outside of his top-5.
Perhaps with another season or two of sub-3.50 ERAs and 220+ strikeouts would be enough to convince the voters, but would even six seasons be enough? Can Kluber sustain success through his mid-30s?