Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A look at Joe Nathan's Hall of Fame chances

Last night we saw the obvious future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera be the set-up man for former Twins closer and current Texas Ranger Joe Nathan. Now Rivera was in the game in the eighth inning to secure him appearing in the game, but is it possible that we saw a one-two punch of future Hall of Famers?

It's tough to break into the Hall being a relief pitcher, but Nathan might just have right amount of saves at the end of his career to punch a ticket to Cooperstown. Nathan currently sits at 328 career saves which is the 13th most saves in the history of baseball. Nathan has 30 saves so far in 2013 and once he reaches 44 he will pass Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers for 10th all-time.

Nathan is currently 38 years old and probably doesn't have more than two or three years left in his arm, at least as a shut-the-door closer. So father time is sure ticking fast for Nathan to bolster his career saves total. Let's say Nathan reaches the 345 career saves mark this year (47 saves on the year) and do some math from there.

In years that Nathan has been healthy (and a closer), he has never saved less than 36 games in a season. Let's say Nathan notches 35 saves these next two seasons after hitting the 345 mark this year. That means Nathan will end the 2015 season with 415 saves with would be good for sixth all-time and be one of only six men to save over 400 ballgames.

Not even Dennis Eckersley saved over 400 games. The problem is that, at the moment, no one else with 400 saves is also in the Hall. Granted, Mariano and Trevor Hoffman will be in the Hall but that's after a career that saw them chalk up 600-plus saves. This puts Nathan in a group with Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner. Franco is already off of the Hall of Fame ballot, Smith is probably not going to get in after his highest voting percentage was 50.6% in 2012 after dropping to 47.8% this year and Billy Wagner is not yet eligible for the Hall.

For the sake of Nathan, Wagner better get enshrined. The two are very comparable: Wagner had seven All-Star appearance and Nathan has six, Wagner pitched 16 seasons and if Nathan pitches two more he will have pitched 15 seasons. If Nathan can have a big couple years, he could easily pass Wagner in all of these categories.

This debate will obviously clear-up in a couple years when Wagner become Hall of Fame eligible and Nathan probably hangs it up, but until then it's a fun debate to have. Joe Nathan is clearly a great closer, now the question is will he be enshrined where the greats go for eternity.

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