The Halo Effect

Bill James, the “Sultan of Stats,” once wrote that Roberto Clemente, “rated by consensus as the 13th greatest player of all time, has, I think, benefited from a halo effect because of his heroic death.” (James rates Clemente 74th.)
Roy Halladay, I believe, benefits from a similar halo effect because of his tragic death in a recent plane crash. Within minutes of the report of his death, baseball talk-show hosts and reporters began beating the drums for his first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame. He isn’t eligible for election until next year, so the drum beat may fade as the halo effect dims.
A big man—6-6, 225—Halladay pitched 16 seasons with the Blue Jays and Phillies, logging a career won-lost record of 203-105 and an ERA of 3.38. He had two nice streaks, one early in his career (19-7 in 2002; 22-7 in 2003) and one late (20-11, 17-10, 21-10, 19-6 from 2008 through 2011).
Halladay bolstered his Cooperstown chances by tossing two no-hitters, one a perfect game—icing on the cake of his career. But is the cake worthy of Cooperstown? I say yes, but not on the first ballot. That’s for guys like Warren Spahn or Bob Gibson. Still, Halladay has another stat that helps his cause. Baseball Reference includes an interesting statistic for every major league player: 162-game average. Halladay’s won-lost record per season is 17-9, which is outstanding.
That stat brings to mind a Hall of Famer who also threw two no hitters—Jim Bunning. He was a good pitcher, but a questionable Hall of Famer. The Baseball Writers Association turned him down 15 times before he fell off their ballot. Bunning was then ushered into the Hall through the back door with the help of votes from friends on the Veterans Committee.
He won 224 games, but lost 184, a .549 winning percentage. His 162-game average won-lost mark is 14-11, hardly Hall of Fame numbers. Bunning did match Halladay by hurling two no-hitters, one a perfect game—icing on the cake of his career. But is the cake worthy of Cooperstown? I say no. Bunning is all icing, no cake.

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