Hall of Fame Reactions

January 9, 2014

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On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA) announced the 2014 Hall of Fame class.

The inductees are:

  • Greg Maddux – Maddux is the winningest living pitcher, with 355 wins.  He won four straight Cy Young awards, was almost always in the conversation as one of the top five pitchers in any given year, mentored younger players, and was a good guy.  For one reason or another (mostly to “make a point”), sixteen voters left Maddux off their ballot – he received “only” 97.2% of the voter.  There’s even a stat named after him.  A Maddux is a complete game shutout where the pitcher throws fewer than 100 pitches.  Maddux also won eighteen gold gloves – most of any player at any position.
  • Tom Glavine – Glavine was also an elite pitcher, albeit a tick below Maddux.  He won 305 games in his career.  He also won two Cy Young awards and was in the top five in Cy Young voting on four other occasions.  He eventually left the Braves to sign with the Mets.  When he became a free agent again, the Braves surrendered type A compensation (giving their first round pick to the rival Mets and allowing the Mets to gain a compensation round pick) for a 42 year old in obvious decline.  Such was the respect Glavine commanded.  (Although, logically, the move made littler sense, and I panned it at the time.  At best, the Braves were going to get a couple of good years out of Glavine.  Most likely, they were going to get mediocre performance.)
  • Frank Thomas – During the seven year stretch from 1991 to 1997, Thomas won two MVP awards and finished in the top eight in MVP voting every year.  He had an OPS+ of at least 174 every year (OPS+ is a league and park adjusted stat – 100 is average).  The Big Hurt was the most feared hitter in the game.  You could argue that Griffey was the better all-around player, but Thomas was the best with the bat.  At the age of 30, Thomas’s productivity dropped considerably.  He wouldn’t win any more MVP awards and would finish in the top five “only” twice more.  He would only have two more seasons with an OPS+ above 150.  He was still a well above average hitter, but it was a very noticeable decline.  I had concerns that the dramatic decline might make people forget how dominant he was, but Thomas picked up 83.7% of the vote.

Craig Biggio narrowly missed being elected, falling two votes short.  A couple of things conspired against Biggio.  The first was a handful of writers using their ballots to make statements.  One example of this was Ken Gurnick’s ballot.  He voted only for Jack Morris.  His logic was that he refused to vote for anyone from the steroid era.  He has said he will abstain from future votes.  Interestingly, a chunk of Morris’s career fell within the steroid era.

The second issue was a limit on the number of players a writer can vote for.  There is a strict limit of ten.  This year featured a stacked ballot due to PED-tainted players remaining on the ballot (if clean, they’d have been elected already) and a very good class of new players.  Several writers said that they’d have voted for Biggio if there  were eleven spots.  Why even have the ten player limit?  Why not just have a yes/no for each player on the ballot.  They’d still need 75% of the vote to be elected, but a writer would be making a conscious decision about every player on the ballot.

Jack Morris was in his fifteenth, and final, year on the ballot.  Not only did he not get the final year bump that most players do, he actually received less support.  Again, likely due to crowded ballot and limit of ten players.  Morris has become a lightning rod, with many old school writers insisted he was a true ace, while proponents of advanced stats portray him as a slightly above average pitcher with a good narrative.  I do feel bad for Morris, even though I don’t think he should be in the Hall of Fame.  He has been dragged through the mud during the process, and there’s no need for that.  At the very least, he was a very good pitcher for a long time.

Where do I stand on PED-tainted players?  If a player tested positive or there is substantial evidence that he took PEDs (such as an indictment), I don’t believe he should be in the Hall of Fame.  However, I refuse to paint all the players with a broad brush.  If there are just whispers of use and no formal accusation by a reliable source, I wouldn’t bar that player.  Rafael Palmeiro holds a special spot on my list.  Palmeiro was playing out the string in his career, at an age where he easily could have been retired.  Had he simply retired a year earlier, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.  With 3000+ hits and 500+ homers, he’d have been a lock.  As a result of PEDs, he dropped brlow 5% support this year and will fall off the ballot.

I also give the BBWAA a D- for their web site.  It’s not a great site to begin with – very simply design with poor navigation – but the site crashed immediately following the announcement.  It would be nice if they would hire a web master who was tech savvy enough to realize that you can rent servers and bandwidth to accommodate predictable traffic spikes.


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2012 Hall of Fame Voting

January 13, 2012

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A lot of people are yammering about the BCS SEC National Conference Championship game, while others are talking about this weekend’s Tebowl.  Naturally, I’m focused on baseball.

The voting for the 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame has been announced.  Here are my thoughts on the voting:

Hall of Famers

  • Barry Larkin was elected in his third year of eligibility, jumping from 62.1% of the vote last year to 86.4% this year.  Anyone who saw Larkin play during his prime realized that it was just a matter of time before he was elected.
  • After toying with his emotion for year, the Veterans Committee posthumously elected Cubs great Ron Santo to the Hall of fame.

Future Hall of Famers

This is an unofficial category, as you never know when a player’s candidacy is going to run out of steam.  However there are several players who took big steps forward this year.

  • Jack Morris was the winningest pitcher in the 1980s and the ultimate gamer.  However, his lack of eye-popping stats has kept him on the ballot for 13 years.  With a jump from 53.5% last year to 66.6% this year, Morris could slip in next year as the first big batch of steroid-tainted players hit the ballot.  If not 2013, then definitely in 2014, as players often get a bump from the voters during their last year on the ballot (you can be on the ballot for a maximum of 15 years).
  • Jeff Bagwell is tainted by the fact that he played during the steroid era, despite the fact that he has never himself been accused of any wrongoing.  In his second year on the ballot, he jumped from 41.7% to 56%.  Likely member of the HOF class of 2015 as he gradually pushed his numbers up.
  • The dynamic Tim Raines climbed from 37.5% to 48.7% in his 5th year on the ballot.  He still has a sizeable hill to climb, but I think he gets there eventually.  HOF class of 2019.
  • Lee Smith was the all-time saves leader when he retired.  However, he has been passed since then (most notably by Mariano Rivera) and there’s less respect for the raw statistics of saves than there was in the past.  In his 10th year on the ballot, he jumped from 45.3% to 50.6%.  I’m not sure if he’ll make it or not.  I hope he does, because I remember his as a fierce warrior on the Cubs teams in the 80s.

Everyone else

There are a lot of other great names on the ballot, but I don’t see any of the others making it into the Hall of Fame.  Some thoughts on the rest of the group:

  • I loved seeing Larry Walker play for my Rockies.  However, a relatively short career coupled with the advantages of playing at Coors Lite (pre-humidor) dooms his candidacy.  Very exciting player – too bad he couldn’t have put together a few more good years.
  • Dale Murphy was a back to back MVP (1982 and 1983) but will fall off the ballot next year.  He received a mere 14.2% of the vote this year.
  • Don Mattingly was the face of the game for a few years before a bad back sapped him of his power.  17.8% in his 12th year on the ballot.  Mattingly has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for 12 years?  That makes me feel old.  Maybe he’ll make it to the Hall as  manager.
  • Without the stench of steroids attached to his name, Rafael Palmeiro would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer.  As the first big star to test positive, there’s no way he’ll make it.  The irony is that he already had HOF numbers at the time of his test.  Had he retired a year earlier, he’d be in the Hall.
  • Mark McGwire actually lost votes, dropping from 19.8% to 19.5%.  This is fairly hard to do, as once a player crosses the Hall of Fame threshold in a writer’s mind, it’s unlikely the writer will demote him.  However, the actual group of voters has a bit of turnover from year to year.  Some McGwire backers may have retired and been replaced with those who aren’t likely to vote for him.  although he never tested positive for a banned substance, he admitted to being using Andro (which was not banned) and was the subject of other rumors.
  • Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff each made small jumps in their 3rd year on the ballot.  Martinez climbed from 32.9% to 36.5% while the Crime Dog went from 17.9% to 23.9%.  At this point, it seems unlikely that either will make it to the required 75%.  The fact that Martinez was a DH works against him, as it should.  He was still a great contributor as a hitter, but didn’t add as much value as a comparable hitter who also played the field.  McGriff was one of the most feared sluggers in the game during his prime, but his lack of a team identity could hurt him – he bounced around like a ping pong ball.
  • Alan Trammell jumped from 24.3% to 36.8% in his 11th year on the ballot.  I alway thought of Trammell (and Lou Whitaker) as very good players, but not great ones.
  • Bernie Williams debuted at 9.6%.  Another guy who was a good player, but not a Hall of Famer.
  • Several players were dropped from future consideration after falling below 5%.  Who would have ever guess that Juan Gonzalez would spend only 2 years on the Hall of Fame ballot.
  • Eric Young achieved his goal and received a vote.  Just one, but better than 4 time All-Star Ruben Sierra, Jeromy Burnitz, Terry Mulholland, Phil Nevin, Brian Jordan, and Tony Womack.




Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?

January 26, 2011

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[Editor’s note: Brian from BeBetterNow.org (a self improvement web site) follows up his Drew Brees article last week with an article that discusses the relative merits of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.]

In his recent love-fest article praising Drew Brees, Kosmo made this comment – “Manning will go down as the greatest quarterback of this generation (sorry, Brady, but you’re going to come up short in counting stats, such as passing yards and TDs).

While Brady will come up short to Manning in passing yards and TDs, Manning currently comes up short in playoff record and championship rings. In addition you could look at Winning Percentage by Quarterbacks (there’s a handy sortable column there.) Tom Brady has the highest percentage in NFL history in winning 77.6% of his games. He is 3 percent better than the next best which is Staubach, who is 3% than a guy named Montana. Brady is 10% better than Manning. The difference there between the two is vast.

Manning also had a number of seasons passing to pro-bowl, possibly Hall of Fame quality receivers in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Most of Brady’s work has been with no big names. He had two seasons with Moss and three with Wes Welker who, as an undrafted free agent, wasn’t exactly known as a great talent before playing with Brady. Finally Brady doesn’t get the advantage of playing half his games in a dome like Manning does… Brady plays in New England where the elements make passing more difficult. You don’t have to look too much futher than the Greatest Show on Turf or the Saints success of late to see that playing a dome is a different game.

When we look at quarterback efficiency (QB Rating), Brady and Manning are neck and neck with Brady having a slight edge. In addition, Brady has 2 of the top 5 best seasons. You may argue that QB rating is the best statistic. I would agree with that. For example, the statistic of touchdowns for quarterbacks is suspect. How many times have you seen a quarterback throw a 50 yard bomb to see the player get tackled on the 1. The next few plays are typically running plays to get the score. Should that quarterback be rated lower than the one whose receiver didn’t get tackle at the 1? It doesn’t make sense. However, the compenents of completion percentage, yards per attempt and interceptions make sense. Some may argue that interceptions can be deceptive as there are bad bounces, but those should even out for all quarterbacks. It shouldn’t be surprising that while Manning has great TD numbers, Brady has the far better interception numbers.

It seems you can get into the Hall two ways. You can be a Dan Marino win great stats (61,000 yards and 420 TDs), but be considered a post-season failure. You can be a Troy Aikman with a very mediocre stats (32,945 yards, 165 TDs, and a 81.6 QB rating) with three Super Bowl rings. I would suggest that Tom Brady is a more complete player at this point with the ability to put up the stats of Manning in any given season combined with 3 Super Bowl rings.

Quarterbacks and the Hall of Fame

January 21, 2011

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[Editor’s note:  Today’s article is written by Brian from BeBetterNow.org, a site devoted to self improvement. Today, Brian attempts to help me improve myself for telling me why I’m wrong about Drew Brees being a Hall of Famer in our midst.]

Recently Kosmo asked the question Is Drew Brees a Hall of Famer?. In it he brought up some comparisons to Peyton Manning and made a very good case that Brees belongs in the Hall.

Pass Happy NFL and Trust in your QB

Kosmo brought up a great point:

Is Brees a product of a pass-happy era in the NFL? Sure. But there’s a reason why everyone isn’t racking up 4500 passing yards per year. Most coaches don’t trust their quarerback to throw the ball 650 times per year.

It’s worth looking at the pass-happy era of the NFL. The rules for contact have been changed over the years. You can barely touch the quarterback any more. If you get near a receiver it is pass interference. If you are a defensive player and there’s a likelihood of getting pass interference called on you, you naturally are going to play off the receiver a bit more. This gives the quarterbacks more room to complete passes.

If you look at career passer rating you’ll note that 19 of the top 30 are currently active in the league. Four of the remaining 11 retired last year (Bulger, Garcia, Culpepper, and Warner). Clearly passing is easier in this day and age. Interesting fact, Shaun Hill, who has been a back-up his entire career has a better rating than Elway, Aikman, and the aforementioned Staubach. Clearly it is a game where it is easier to get TDs, avoid interceptions, and complete more passes for a longer average. If it is easier to pass in today’s game, it is hard to compare Brees to players of previous eras.

As for trusting your quarterback to pass 650 times. I don’t buy it. When Peyton Manning had his best season in 2004 (121 QB Rating – the best ever), he only threw the ball 497 times. In Tom Brady’s best year (117.2 rating – highest scoring offense ever), he only threw the ball 578 times. Brady only topped 600 attempts one time – in 2002 when the team was 9-7 and some wondered if Brady was really talented at all. Peyton Manning never had 600 attempts in his career. Brees has thrown 630+ passes in 3 of the last 4 season… the exception being the champion season where he threw only 514 passes. I don’t think anyone could claim that Manning and Brady aren’t trusted to throw the ball.

Why does Drew Brees throw so much? I think it is because the games have been close or they have been playing catch-up. When the Saints flirted with going undefeated they could build up a quick lead and run the clock out. This year they’ve had to come from behind and endured many, many injuries to their running backs.

When looking at the number of passes, we should look at another player, Drew Bledsoe. His career ended early with his last full year at age 33. However, he did put up 44,000 yards and 251 TDs in that time in a less pass happy NFL. He did this mostly by passing a lot. Some make an argument for him to be in the Hall of Fame because he ranks in the top ten in a number of areas and beats out a number of current Hall of Famers. However, I think this article correctly points out that high volume doesn’t mean high efficiency.

It appears that Drew Brees is a combination of volume and efficiency, but I would caution against using numbers such as yards and TDs that tend to skew towards volume.

Is Brees a Hall of Famer?

Let’s get back to Kosmo’s original question. I think it might be closer than he thinks. Let’s review the numbers that Kosmo has for Brees, which I believe are fair, and compare them to others in his class:

Player Age Yards TDs QB Rating Proj. Yards Proj. TDs
Drew Brees 32 35,000 235 91.7 55,266 360
Philip Rivers 29 19,961 136 97.2 52,641 360
Aaron Rodgers 27 12,723 87 98.4 53,723 367
Ben Roethlisberger 28 22,502 144 92.5 46,502 288

Notes on the projected stats:

  • Philip Rivers – He is three years younger than Brees. Since we added 5 years to Brees, I added 8 for Rivers. Rivers has averaged 27.2 TDs for every 16 games he’s played, but in the last three years (when he stepped up his game) he’s averaged 30.6. I projected 28 on average for the next 8 years to account for some drop-off. Similarly Rivers averages 3930 yards per full season in his career, but over the last three years he has been averaging 4324 yards a season. I calculated a 4100 as his 8 year average.
  • Aaron Rodgers – It is extremely hard to project him because he only has a few seasons due to waiting out the Favre fiasco. However, I felt it would be short-sighted to leave him off the list. At age 27, he projects to play 10 more years to get to the age of 37 that we are predicting for all quarterbacks. With at least 28 TD in every season, I continued that for 10 years. With an average of 4131 yards over his full seasons, I added in 10 years of 4000 to account for some drop off – though he could get better before he gets worse.
  • Ben Roethlisberger – While he is age 28, he won’t be adding until his counting stats until he’s 29. Thus I’m going to pretend he’s 29 and treat him like Drew Brees – 8 years until age 37. Due to some injury problems and off-field issues, he’s averaged fewer games than some of the above players. He’s still averaging 3214 a season and 20 TDs. I conservatively estimated the next 8 years to average 3000 yards and 18 TDs.

Big Ben may look out of place, but because he wins games, I don’t think we can discount him as a potential Hall of Fame candidate. He already has 2 rings and could add a third before he turns 29. I think it is worth focusing on Rivers and Rodgers who are often mentioned with Brees in the next tier after Brady/Manning debate. Though we have to project Rivers and Rodgers more than Brees (and hence have less accuracy in our predictions), it should be noted that they might have very similar careers.

If you put one of them in the Hall, you may have to put them all. Are voters likely to say that we have 5-6 Hall of Fame quarterback in the league right now? Has Brees separated himself from the rest of the pack? I’m not sure.

If we see Brees in the Hall of Fame in a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised. If he puts up the numbers that Kosmo suggests and doesn’t make it, I wouldn’t call it a travesty either.

Is Drew Brees a Hall of Famer?

January 19, 2011

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“Some people are going to be really surprised when Drew Brees stands up in Canton to give his acceptance speech.”

I’ve made comments similar to this a few times in the past year.  Even when speaking to knowledgeable fans, it’s often met with skepticism.  After all, Drew Brees is a nice guy, but he’s no Peyton Manning.  One friend even commented that he’s basically Dan Fouts, and that Fouts wasn’t good enough for the Hall of Fame.  I countered this by showing that Brees is better than Fouts was … and that Fouts is indeed enshrined in Canton.

Brees is definitely a nice guy.  He’s always involved in charity work and never in trouble – despite being the king of the party town of New Orleans.  In an article in Sports Illustrated, a Saints teammate pondered the question of how much trouble Ben Roethlisberger could get himself into in the Big Easy.  I do think, though, that Brees’ good-guy reputation may be preventing his greatness on the field from getting the recognition he deserves.

First of all, let’s stop with the comparisons to Peyton Manning.  Manning will go down as the greatest quarterback of this generation (sorry, Brady, but you’re going to come up shorting in counting stats, such as passing yards and TDs).  By the end of the 2014 season, Manning (who will be 38 at the time) will be the all time leader in passing yards and touchdowns (assuming that Brett Favre stays retired).

The presence of Manning, though, shouldn’t detract from the greatness of Brees, any more than the presence of Babe Ruth should detract from the greatness of Lou Gehrig.  Brees (who is nearly three years younger than Manning) has 35,266 passing yards and 235 touchdowns to his credit.  Let’s extrapolate a bit, assuming that Brees plays five more seasons.  (Yes, yes, we should be very careful when predicting future performance).

Brees has thrown at least 33 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons … but he’ll be getting older, so let’s assume a bit of decline.  Brees has seven straight seasons of at least 24 touchdowns – so let’s put him down for 25 more TDs in each of the next five seasons.  That’s 125 touchdowns to add to his current total of 235 – bringing the extrapolated total to 360.  In his five years as leader of the high powered Saints offense, Brees has averaged 4583.6 passing yards per year.  Again, let’s trim this down a bit, assuming for a bit of decline.  We’ll assume a still powerful Saints offense, but a “mere” 4000 passing yards per season.  That would add 20,000 passing yards to his total of 35,266 – bringing his extrapolated career total to 55,266.

How do those numbers stack up?  360 touchdowns would likely place him 4th or 5th all time (depending on how Tom Brady does during the same span) and 55,266 passing yards would likely rank 4th all time (Brees is currently behind Kerry Collins and Donovan McNabb, but I would expect him to be ahead of them at the end of the five years).

Bear in mind that my numbers are based on his retirement at age 36.  If he decides to play until he is 40, then 70,000 yards and 500 touchdowns might come into play.

Being top five in passing yards and TD would certainly punch Brees’ ticket to Canton.  Only three quarterbacks with more than 275 touchdowns are not in the Hall of Fame.  Two of theme aren’t eligible yet (Favre and Manning) but are locks to be enshrined – and the third is Vinny Testaverde, who took 21 seasons to toss 275 TDs.  Is Brees a product of a pass-happy era in the NFL.  Sure.  But there’s a reason why everyone isn’t racking up 4500 passing yards per year.  Most coaches don’t trust their quarerback to throw the ball 650 times per year.

Still, Brees must have some young gunslingers coming up in his rear view mirror, right?  Not really.  If we look at players younger than Brees, the leaders in touchdowns is Eli Manning with 156 and passing yards is Carson Palmer with 22,694.  That’s 75 fewer touchdowns and 12,572 fewer passing yards than Brees.

No matter how you slice it, Brees is one of the elite QBs in the game today.

Hall of Fame Reactions

January 12, 2010

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On January 6th, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that the Baseball Writers of America (BBWA) had selected Andre Dawson as their sole choice for 2010 induction into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

I was a Cubs fan when Dawson won the MVP in 1987 – his 49 homers nabbing the award despite a last place finish by Chicago.  Dawson is one of just three players in major league history with at least 400 homers and 300 steals (Barry Bonds and Willie Mays being the others).

Dawson was a victim of collusion by MLB owners when he became a free agent after the 1986 season (read all about it here – the owners were found guilty) and ended up signing a contract for “just” $500,000 for the 1987 season.  (Yep, that’s still a lot of money, but far below the market value).

Bert Blyleven, in his thirteenth year on the ballot, got tantalizingly close to election, garnering 400 votes – falling just 5 votes shorts of the 75% required for election.  Players tend to pick up a bit of momentum in the last couple of years on the ballot (they are on the ballot for 15 years), so it is an almost certainty that Blyleven will make it in 2011.  (Read my case for Blyleven).

In his first year on the ballot, Roberto Alomar fell just 8 votes short of induction.  Alomar likely would have had the necessary votes if not for an ugly incident on September 27, 1996.  During a heated argument, Alomar spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck.  Alomar’s version of events was that the umpire had used an ethnic slur, and some viewers contended that Hirschbeck called the player a “faggot” as he walked away.

Should this incident have kept Alomar out of the Hall?  I’m going to say no.  Why not?  Because John Hirschbeck long ago forgave Alomar, and Alomar has become a fund raiser for the fight against adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare disease which afflicted two of Hirschbeck’s sons.  If Hirschbeck forgave Alomar of his sins, should we not due the same?

Other notable players on the ballot:

In his first year on the ballot, former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin picked up 51.6% of the vote. Larkin will – and should – eventually be elected.  He was a player I loved to hate.

Jack Morris – the winningest pitcher of the 1980s and a three time World Series champion – had the fourth highest vote total, with 52.3%.  However, in his 11th year on the ballot, he might not be able to push above 75% before he falls off the ballot.

All time saves leader Lee Smith continues his long journey.  Smith picked up 478 career saves to go along with a 3.03 ERA.  There was the thought that Bruce Sutter’s election in 2006 might open the door a crack for Smith, but this hasn’t been the case.

Edgar Martinez got 36.2% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.  Martinez was primarily a DH during his career, playing in the field in only 561 of his 2055 career games.  I’m on record as hating the designated hitter.  Having said that, if we are to allow DHs into the Hall of Fame, Martinez should be welcomed in with open arms.

As for the five voters who returned blank ballots – seriously, none of the players on the ballot deserved your vote?  Did you even watch baseball in the 1980s?

The Case for Bert Blyleven

December 29, 2009

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In January, the Baseball Writers of America will announce the 2010 Hall of Fame class. For the thirteenth time, Bert Blyleven will be on the ballot. Twelve prior times, he has fallen short in his bid for enshrinement at Cooperstown. I truly hope that this is the year for Bert.

To make my case for Blyleven, I’ll compare him to another pitcher.

Pitcher A:

  • Over the course of 692 games, compiled a .534 winning percentage.
  • Compiled a career ERA of 3.31
  • Had an adjusted ERA+ of 118 (this is an advanced statistic that adjusts ERA for ballpark and the pitcher’s league. A higher number is better).
  • Had a career strikeout : walk ratio of 2.80
  • Compiled 15 or more wins in 10 different seasons
  • Compiled 15 or more losses in 7 seasons (5 of these seasons before he turned 26).
  • Never won a Cy Young award

Pitcher B:

  • Over the course of 807 games, compiled a .526 winning percentage.
  • Compiled a career ERA of 3.19.
  • Compiled a career ERA+ of 111 (remember, higher is better).
  • Had a career strikeout : walk ratio of 2.04
  • Compiled 15 or more wins in 8 different seasons
  • Compiled 15 or more losses in 6 seasons
  • Never won a Cy Young award

Based on those resumes, which pitcher would you give the nod to? I’d lean toward pitcher A. Although his actual ERA is higher, when adjusted to ERA+, it is better than pitcher B’s. His strikeout : walk ratio shows a better command of the strike zone.

It won’t surprise you that pitcher A is Bert Blyleven.

It may surprise you that pitcher B is first ballot Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.

Ryan is of course known for his strikeouts. He is the all-time leader with 5714 (Blyleven is 5th at 3701). Randy Johnson, at 4875 and counting, is in second place and will probably wind up slightly above 5000 (or roughly 87.5% of Ryan’s record). Are strikeouts really that important? (Hint: read this article for your answer.)

What’s not as well known is that Ryan is also the career leader for walks, with 2795. Steve Carlton is a very distant second at 1833 (65.6% of Ryan’s record).

While it is extremely unlikely that anyone will ever break Ryan’s strikeout record, it is a virtual certainty that nobody will break the walk record. A pitcher who walks batters at Ryan’s rate would quickly find himself on a bus back to AAA.

Ryan has 324 wins to Blyleven’s 287 (and also 292 losses to Bert’s 250). Wins are a problematic statistic because of the limited impact the pitcher has. Take a pitcher from the Nationals and put him on the staff of the Yankees, and his wins will skyrocket due to increased run support.

In this particular case, the fact that Ryan hung around until age 46 (while Blyleven retired at 41) is largely responsible for the difference. Ryan compiled a 51-39 record those final five years, pushing his career record from 273 – 253 to the end result of 324 – 292. Longevity is nice, but is that 51-39 record over those five years really the difference between a slam-dunk Hall of Famer and a guy at risk of never making it?

This brings us, naturally, to the no hitters. Ryan had seven while Blyleven had just one. A no hitter is great, and seven of them are a wonderful achievement. But this simply shows that on a particular night, the pitcher was dominant and/or lucky. It’s a nice footnote for a career, but it shouldn’t be the main credential for a hall of famer.  Seven nights accounts for 1% of the career starts from these guys.  The other 99% should have a bit more weight.

I’m not suggesting that we remove Nolan Ryan from the Hall of Fame – but if his credentials warranted votes from 98.8% of voters, surely Blyleven’s credential should be judged worthy by at last 75% of the voters.