Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hall of Fame Says No to Blyleven Again

One of the things I wish for is a sea change in the voting for Baseball's Hall of Fame. Writers like George Will and Bill James have sophisticated formula they wish to be used in determining who should be hall eligible, but my system is a little simpler. I wish that candidates for the Hall of Fame were only compared to individuals of their own position during their own era, rather than against some mythic standard of supreme excellence. The fact that Ryne Sandberg wasn't a shoe in is evidence that voters weren't analyzing him as a second baseman, rather as a "non-pitching player."

I do believe that currently voters have two categories they consider pitching vs. non-pitching. But I believe that the thought process should be broader than that. Ryne was the best second baseman in baseball for a decade, and he compares nicely to other Hall inductees at the position, yet he took time to get into the Hall. The glut of existing, and forthcoming, First Basemen with 400+ HR has skewed the thinking of the voters. Would Rod Carew be voted in today, probably (he had more than 3000 hits) but I think there would be questions.

I say all of this because voters seems to be beginning to take my idea into consideration, but only with regards to letting in relief pitchers. It appears the criteria are now pitchers, non-pitchers, and relief pitchers. This an odd parsing and seems to be to be the only reason Bruce Sutter is this year's sole inductee into the Hall. Pitchers like Bert Blyleven, who was great for his era, are ignored because they are being compared to Walter Johnson and Cy Young. Nobody compares to those guys, that's like saying you have to compare favorable to Babe Ruth, it's just crazy. By thinking of relief pitchers as a separate entity from pitcher it allows the voters to be more reasonable in their expectations of relief pitchers, hence why Sutter is in, but the voters haven't adjusted their standards for starters to match. I restate, players should be measured by their own era, who was the best when they played. In fact, I think maybe four or five players should be inducted every year there are certainly that many we can argue for.

Let me just show you how Blyleven and Sutter compare.


Blyleven:
Wins: 287 Losses: 250 ERA: 3.31 G: 692 GS: 685 CG: 242 SHO: 60 SV: 0 SVO: n/a IP: 4970.0 Hits: 4632 Runs: 2029 Earned Runs: 1830 HR: 430 HBP: 155 BB: 1322 Strikeouts: 3701

Strikeouts per inning: .74 WHiP: 1.20


Sutter:
Wins: 68 Losses: 71 ERA: 2.83 G: 661 GS: 0 CG: 0 SHO: 0 SV: 300 SVO:--- IP: 1042.0 Hits: 879 Runs: 370 Earned Runs: 328 HR: 77 HBP: 13 BB: 309 Strikeouts: 861

Strikeouts per inning: .83 WHiP: 1.14

As you can see Sutter's K per inning and Walks/Hits per inning are superior, but he also averaged less than 2 innings per game while Blyleven averaged 7.18 innings per game. Blyleven had a great career, steady and strong, but it wasn't a meteoric career, nor was it an obvious "the very best of all-time" career. But that shouldn't be the standard, at least not in the sense that you have to be better than everything that came before. If you honestly look at the HoF, you will find pitchers whose careers don't quite match Blyleven's.

My request to the voters? Stop wanting every Hall pitcher to be Walter Johnson. There is only one of those...ever. If that is your standard, have a Hall of 1.
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