Houston Astros: Billy Wagner getting some Hall of Fame love

Houston Astros closer Billy Wagner in 2001. Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martinez /Allsport
Houston Astros closer Billy Wagner in 2001. Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martinez /Allsport /

Former Houston Astros closer Billy Wagner has struggled to get much traction for his Hall of Fame candidacy. That is starting to change.

Billy Wagner was one of the more dominant closers of his time. The former Houston Astros star was a seven time All Star, winning the 1999 NL Rolaids Reliever of the Year award. He posted a 2.31 ERA and a 0.998 WHiP over his 903 innings, striking out 1196 batters with 300 walks. His 422 saves rank sixth all time in major league history, as he is one of only six pitchers to reach that 400 save plateau.

Yet, for all of his success, his Hall of Fame candidacy had not garnered much attention. He was unable to get much traction in his first four years on the ballot, falling below 20% of the vote each time. Finally, in 2020, Wagner started to receive some recognition, reaching 31.7%. Although he still had a long way to go, there was some promise that he could become a serious candidate.

That move up the ladder is continuing this year. Through 35 publicly released ballots, Wagner has gained six votes, tied for the most of any candidate thus far. That puts Wagner at 40% of the vote to this point.

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As 75% of the vote is needed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Wagner still has a long way to go. He would need to receive a vote on 78.4% of the remaining ballots to be inducted, a number that is highly unlikely to happen.

But it is a sign that Wagner’s accomplishments are beginning to be taken seriously when it comes to the Hall of Fame. Relievers are underrepresented in Cooperstown, with only eight players being inducted for their roles in the bullpen.

Attitudes towards relievers are starting to change. Mariano Rivera remains the only player to be unanimously inducted, a surprising honor despite how dominant he was in the ninth inning. Lee Smith was inducted by the Veteran’s Committee. Perhaps, in a few years, Wagner will receive the call as well.

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Former Houston Astros closer Billy Wagner is still a long way from being inducted into Cooperstown. However, he is getting closer, and has already gained six votes from last year.