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Is Tony Watson a Hall of Famer?

The Hall of Fame tweeted “Happy Retirement!” to Tony Watson. Do they know something about his future now that he’s called it a career?

Tony_Watson,_April_2014 by blackngold29 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Is Tony Watson a Hall of Famer?

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Was Tony Watson a good reliever? Sure. Was he even a great reliever? I’d give him that too. But is he a Hall of Famer? I never even thought about it until I saw this Tweet from the National Baseball Hall of Fame:

On Monday, 4/18, former reliever Tony Watson announced his retirement from Major League Baseball. There was some talk about Watson returning in the 2022 season but some injuries popped up so the 36 year old decided to call it quits. Spending the majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Watson became one of the most reliable setup men in all of baseball. In 2014, Watson represented the Pirates as an All-Star and actually had pretty insane stats that season. In just over 77 innings, Watson had 81 strikeouts, a 1.63 ERA, and a 10-2 record and amassed 34 holds as well. But is he a Hall of Famer??

Departing Pittsburgh

Not afraid to pitch inside and ruffle some batters’ feathers, Watson became a blue-chip trade piece in the 2017 season. Ultimately snagged by the LA Dodgers, Watson got to pitch in the World Series against the Houston Astros. He pitched 3.2 innings and accumulated two of the Dodgers’ three wins in that series. The Dodgers would go on to lose in 7 games but Watson was rewarded by LA rivals, the Giants with a 3 year 9 million dollar contract. Not bad money for a setup man.

But is he a Hall of Famer??

There are 8 guys who are considered relievers that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame over the years. Partly because the stat that defines these guys is the save and it wasn’t introduced until 1969. This leads me to the case of Tony Watson as a HOF’er. The newest stat that has defined the effectiveness of relievers is the hold. Not introduced until 1999, the hold started to give those other late inning relievers some clout and Watson sure took advantage of it.

Over his 10 year career, Watson accumulated 246 holds and in one season had 41 of them. The 246 number would put him as #1 since the stat started to count. Only two guys who played before the hold was a statistic had more than him – Arthur Rhodes (254) and Mike Stanton (266). If we compare the stats of those three setup specialists, this is how we net out:

Mike Stanton (266 Holds) – 68-63, 84 Saves, 3.92 ERA, 895 Strikeouts, 1114.0 IP

Arthur Rhodes (254 Holds) – 87-70, 33 Saves, 4.08 ERA, 1152 Strikeouts, 1187.2 IP

Tony Watson (246 Holds) – 47-29, 32 Saves, 2.90 ERA, 570 Strikeouts, 648.1 IP


Probably not. Hall of Fame voting is a sham anyway and basically a popularity contest. If we’re looking at the all-time saves leaders in the MLB you have guys like Billy Wagner, K-Rod, and John Franco with better all around stats than Goose “Burnin’ Bridges” Gossage or Lee Smith. Yet Wagner especially can’t find his way in. Hall of Fame voters need to decide what makes a reliever a Hall of Famer. We put so much emphasis on saves and now holds that guys will rack up crazy numbers but then voters will just be like nope, sorry. I don’t know, having a sub 3 ERA with the most holds, isn’t a bad case for the HOF but it’s unlikely to happen. Thanks for the memories anyway, Tony!

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Jason moved to NYC for 9 years and gained a wife, a child, and career then decided to go back to the Steel City. A sports fan since birth, he follows the Pirates, Duquesne basketball, Pens, Steelers, and Pistons (Grant Hill would have been better than Jordan if he had stayed healthy...prove me wrong). He enjoys playing in various sports leagues and throwing his money away on fantasy sports. Besides that, a good book and video games for a day would be just fine with him.

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