Could Billy Wagner Make The Hall of Fame?

added 2/16/2010 by Bob Hulsey

I've speculated before about other former Astros and their chances to make the Hall of Fame but, while updating the player pages, I came across another name that might not immediately make you think of Cooperstown but who could nonetheless have a compelling argument for induction.

When it comes to reliever Billy Wagner, there is both more and less than meets the eye. The diminutive southpaw gets your attention with his 100-mph fastball. He has dazzled opponents and seemed unhittable at times.

Wagner is, admittedly, a one-trick pony. But it is some trick. From time to time, he'll mix in a curveball for show but every batter who steps in knows they're getting the gas and still most batters can't touch him.

There are good arguments to talk Wagner and the Hall but there are also negative arguments against it. First, let's discuss the case for Wagner:

Now, about the negatives:

As pitching has evolved where starters rarely finish and closers are rarely used for anything else, it is going to become harder to evaluate them against the all-time greats. Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson could be the last of a dying breed of 300-win pitchers. For now, there is no magic number that ensures a closer for induction.

One could think of Wagner as the Nolan Ryan of closers - another pitcher slightly above .500 in winning percentage (Wagner is 40-38) who seemed to never reach the big stage but was so dominating in what he did that many regard him as one of the best ever.

The Hall may have to find other metrics for pitchers than the traditional benchmarks of wins and ERAs to compare today's hurlers against those of bygone eras. Where that leaves Wagner is yet to be determined but I'd suggest his chances of getting in would be less than 50%. At age 38, he has a chance to embellish his record but I don't see any improvement that would better his chances for induction. That's not to say, however, that he has no chance. Billy Wagner's name will be an interesting one to watch five years after his retirement. He might just be at the podium in Cooperstown some day although it will surely take several years to get there.