Flame-throwing closer Billy Wagner never led the league in saves. He never won a Cy Young Award. And he never played in a World Series. So how the heck could Billy the Kid ever become Billy the Hall of Famer? Here’s how:
In a 16-year-career — 2 with the Phillies — Wagner was a seven-time all-star. He ranks No. 6 all-time among save leaders with 422. Only one other lefty in baseball history has had more saves (John Franco, 424). He has the best strikeout rate of any pitcher with at least 900 innings since 1900, whiffing 33.2 percent of batters he faced. His 0.998 WHIP is the lowest all-time among relievers with at least 500 innings pitched. He held opponents to a microscopic .187 batting average against him. Among pitchers to relieve in at least 95 percent of their outings, Wagner ranks sixth all-time in WAR.
And, for the sake of comparison, Wagner tallied more strikeouts than near-lock Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, and he had better career ERA than Hoffman, too.
Wagner’s backstory is as Cooperstown-worthy as his stats. As a little kid, he broke his pitching arm twice and then decided to teach himself how to throw left-handed by throwing baseballs against the wall of a barn. He taught himself pretty well, wouldn’t you say?