June 12, 2021

JAWS and the 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot: Billy Wagner (FanGraphs)

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2020 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2016 election at SI.com, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

Billy Wagner was the ultimate underdog. Undersized and from both a broken home and an impoverished rural background, he channeled his frustrations into throwing incredibly hard — with his left hand, despite being a natural righty, for he broke his right arm twice as a child. Scouts overlooked him because he wasn’t anywhere close to six feet tall, but they couldn’t disregard his dominance over collegiate hitters using a mid-90s fastball. The Astros made him a first-round pick, and once he was converted to a relief role, his velocity went even higher.

Thanks to outstanding…

Read “JAWS and the 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot: Billy Wagner” at FanGraphs