Friday, November 27, 2009

HOF Watch: Pat Hentgen

Pat Hentgen was a beloved longtime Blue Jay in the '90s and will have his first-and possibly only-year on the HOF ballot this year.

Hentgen had some great moments- after spending part of 1992 in the Toronto bullpen, he joined the starting rotation for good in 1993 and went 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA. He added a win in Game 3 of the World Series as the Jays beat the Phillies. In 1996, he went 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA en route to the AL Cy Young.

For the rest of his career, though, Hentgen was consistently average. Pat had four more seasons as a rotation workhorse but never regained the heights of 1996. An arm injury in 2001 brought his age-32 year to a sudden halt and he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery. He was back on the mound by the end of 2002 and he had one last decent year in 2003 at the age of 34 as he went 7-8 with a 4.09 ERA. Hentgen returned to Toronto for one final year but went a disappointing 2-9.

Hentgen's final career line was 131-112 with a 4.32 ERA. His career was a good one but falls well short of Hall of Fame standards. He does have some credentials-particularly the CY and the Series ring but also 3 all-star appearances- that may earn him a few votes if Toronto writers want to give him a tribute on the ballot. He's almost certain to fall off the ballot right away.

Hentgen, like so many other pitchers, had flashes of greatness but couldn't dodge the injuries that ended his career. Even without the injuries, though, Hentgen's days were always numbered: he only struck out 5.6 batters per nine against 3.4 BB/9. With middling stuff, Hentgen had to be aggressive and rely on his stuff- a quality that perhaps rubbed off on a young Roy Halladay, whose first year as a Jay was also Hentgen's last before the trade that sent him to St. Louis. Hentgen's aggressiveness allowed him to rack up big innings totals as he led the majors in innings in both 1996 and 1997.

Though he won't be a hall of famer, Pat will be fondly remembered by Jays fans as a key cog in the 1993 World Series and for always taking his turn on the mound as his career progressed. Thanks for the memories, Pat!

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