Friday, January 23, 2009

Thoughts of upcoming candidates

With Jeff Kent's announcement this week, I wonder how many second basemen from the 1990s we would see in the HOF. Defensive deficiencies aside, Kent's offensive numbers are above and beyond any other second basemen, so I think he will get in. I also think Roberto Alomar will get in, though I don't think he will get in on the first ballot because of the spitting incident, and many voters will remember his last three years (which were horrible, i.e., "The Steve Carlton Path to Retirement") and not the previous thirteen. And does Craig Biggio go in as a second baseman?

I am of the opinion that few should get into the HOF, and I think two or three players per position of a specific time period is appropriate.

So...who gets in at the other positions?

Catcher: I-Rod and Piazza
First Basemen: Bagwell? Frank Thomas? Jim Thome?
Shortstop: Jeter, A-Rod (or 3rd), Vizquel?
Third Basemen: Chipper, A-Rod, and ???
Outfield: Manny, Bonds...who am I missing??

I don't think Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro will get in...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Recent Ballot

As with everyone, I am not surprised Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice made the HOF. Henderson was one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and Rice's recent surge of support finally carried him into the HOF...though, after initially supporting his candidacy, I began to believe he was not worthy of the Hall.

Why? My guru, Bill James actually went from being against Rice to being in favor...did it have anything to do with working as an assistant the Boston Red Sox? Only he truly knows, but, there is one thing I would like to point out.

Jose Cruz, of the Houston Astros, had better numbers away from the Astrodome than Rice did away from Fenway Park.

Today, we look seriously at Ballpark Factors, but in the 1980s and before, they weren't focused on. Everyone knew the Astrodome was where hitters' numbers went to die, but no one measured the effect. And today, with the additional construction done at Fenway Park, as well as the creation of even smaller band boxes like Citizens Bank and Coors Field (due to its altitude), Fenway is more neutral than it used to be.

But look at these career numbers, and then look at the splits.

1974-89 Jim Rice
  • 2452 Hits, 8225 ABs, .298 BA
  • 382 HRs, 1451 RBIs, .502 Slugging Pct.
1970-88 Jose Cruz
  • 2251 Hits, 7917 ABs, .284 BA
  • 165 HRs, 1077 RBIs, .420 Slugging Pct.
Based on these basic numbers, Rice was a better player than Cruz. But let's look at the Home/Away splits

  • Home: .320 BA, 208 HRs, 802 RBIs, Slugging Pct. .546
  • Away: .277 BA, 174 HRs, 649 RBIs, Slugging Pct. .459
  • Home: .289 BA, 59 HR, 528 RBI Slugging Pct. .418
  • Away: .280 BA, 106 HR, 548 RBI Slugging Pct. .422
Still looks in Rice's advantage, but once we factor in the run difference between the NL and AL during this time, they are remarkably similar offensive players.

I'm not saying Jose Cruz belongs in the HOF, but I am saying that Rice's numbers aren't as impressive as they appear.

Finally...I wonder if the baseball writers have to make their ballots known...could we please find out why 28 people left Rickey's name off the ballot?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Final Word On Blyleven...

Until next year, when these same arguments will be passed around.

I have been in discussion with a number of people on the "comments" page on concerning this. If I may, I'd like to break down the pro-Blyleven arguments to a simple few statements, then analyze each of them.

1. "Blyleven was better than x".
2. "Blyleven's record doesn't reflect his effectiveness as a pitcher - he pitched for horrible teams and received very little run support."
3 "Blyleven was in the top 10 in x and y for z years, who shows the quality of pitcher he really was."
4. "Blyleven is in the top x in these categories for a career, making him one of the best pitchers ever."

Before I break down each of these comments, I think it's important to note that even with Bill James and the sabrematicians doing their best to quantify and objectify baseball statistics, it is still a subjective evaluation. In my opinion, I don't feel Blyleven qualifies.

Statement #1: I believe that a person getting elected to the HOF should be better than at least one-third of the players currently in it, if not higher. Throughout the years of election, mistakes have been made: Rizzuto, Mazeroski, Hunter. I don't think it's fair to point out one pitcher that Blyleven is better than, and say therefore, "If Hunter's a Hall of Famer, then Blyleven should be as well." That's a slippery slope, and before you know it thousands of players will be giving their speeches in Cooperstown.

For the record, Blyleven was a better pitcher than Hunter. I think he was better than Sutton...but we'll get to that argument in a second.

Statement #2: Bill James made an effort to balance inequalities between pitchers and their offensive support, and Blyleven supporters use this to say he deserves somewhere between 314-323 wins.

But he didn't win that many. He was 287. And while I love what Bill James has done with and for statistics, he fails to take into account one simple thing: a starting pitcher's job (at least in Blyleven's time) was to win ballgames.

Some argue Blyleven played on some horrible teams. Without him pitching, his teams would've gone 79-82. With him pitching, they went 81-80. Blyleven was only 37 games over .500 in his career. His teams were...average. He played on two World Series Champions, four teams that won 90+ games, and only 1 team that lost 100.

Some argue he didn't get enough run support, and won the most 1-0 games since Walter Johnson, or lost the most, something. Let's break this argument down.

Run Support, Career

Morris – 4.82
Palmer – 4.38
Carlton – 4.37
Hunter – 4.30
Niekro – 4.22
Blyleven – 4.19
Sutton – 4.14
Seaver – 3.94
Perry – 3.92
Ryan – 3.80

Blyleven in his career got more run support than Sutton, Seaver, Perry and Ryan. What do those four have in common? They all managed to get to 300 wins, the "El Dorado" of pitching statistics, much like 3000 hits is for batters. Some look at Ryan's record and K's, and group Blyleven with him. One can't - Ryan received 10% less run support than Blyleven, won more games, and struck out almost double what Blyleven did in his career.

Fine - let's look at this another way. Suppose Blyleven was a great pitcher, and he did his best given the meagre run support he had to work with. How does he match up with pitchers of his generation when they received 2 or less runs to work with? 3 or less?

Winning percentage, less than 2 runs in an outing.

Seaver .500
Palmer .407
Niekro .405
Carlton .382
Hunter .380
Perry .344
Sutton .329
Ryan .319
Blyleven .293

Winning pct., less than 3 runs in an outing.

Palmer .635
Sutton .612
Seaver .560
Ryan .543
Perry .542
Hunter .475
Carlton .473
Niekro .387
Blyleven .377

So, he doesn't match up with the pitchers of his generation in being able to win tight, low-scoring games, which in my opinion is an important measure of a great pitcher. As for Seaver, the fact that he won half of his team's starts when they scored less than two runs gives credence to the argument of being the Greatest Pitcher Ever.

Statement #3: The strongest argument of the four, by a wide margin. Blyleven is 5th all-time in K's, finished top 10 in ERA 10 times, top five 7 times, and does better when it's adjusted for ballpark factors (Top 10 - 12, Top 5 - 7). His curveball is among the best ever. Is this enough to get him in?

For his career, his ERA is 3.31. Of the starting pitchers from his generation, he trails Palmer, Seaver, Don Gullett, Gaylord Perry, Mike Cuellar, Ryan, Carlton, Dave McNally, Wilbur Wood, Hunter, Sutton, Ron Guidry, and Luis Tiant.

For adjusted ERA, taking into account the era each lived in (eliminating the advantage of the dead-ball for that era's pitchers), Blyleven is in a tie for 134th. Of the eighteen people tied there, three are HOFers: Warren Spahn (363 wins), Ted Lyons (who pitched during the Offensive Era of the 1920s and 30s), and Vic Willis, a pitcher around the turn of the century. Glavine will join them, but again, Glavine has 300+ wins. It isn't until one ascended to 43rd on that list when over one-third of them are in the HOF.

Statement #4: If Blyleven was one of the top winning pitchers of his generation, I'd give it to him, even given everything else. If he was ever considered the best a couple of years he pitched, I'd go see his acceptance speech. Unfortunately for him, he pitched at a time when there were four-man rotations, and pitchers were expected to finish what they started. He did that, and very well, but not great. He is 27th all-time in wins...but trails seven others he regularly played against. The 1970s and 80s saw the greatest number of pitchers gain 300 wins than any other period of equal time. It almost devalued it...there was a huge debate over whether Sutton should make it to the HOF - which I still believe was a bad decision. But 300 wins is 300 wins...and 287 is not.

So what are we left with? A very good pitcher, who pitched on average teams, with an outstanding curveball and a very lengthy career. He was a strikeout pitcher who pitched in the shadow of the greatest of all-time. He made it to two All-Star Games (NOT a popular poll for pitchers, as some assume), finished third in Cy Young voting twice. He was a strikeout pitcher with a propensity for the home run. He was a good pitcher on some good teams, and a good pitcher on some bad teams. He was at times the number one starter...but not a dominant one. A pitcher who bettered career numbers of some pitchers who were better than him over a shorter period of time, but didn't reach the career numbers of some pitchers who were his peers.

A person once said, "The Hall of Fame should not be judged by who is in it, but rather by who is left out of it." With that in mind, I am very comfortable not having Bert Blyleven in the Hall of Fame.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bert Blyleven

Recently read how Jayson Stark is voting for the HOF...and I have to disagree. To choose players who deserve to be in the HOF, one needs to compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges. In this case, one should compare pitchers who played during the same time.

Hall of Fame vs. Hall of the Very Good (Blue is in the HOF)

Yrs. Pitched Player W – L ERA K All-Star CY(1st/2nd/3rd)

1965-88 Steve Carlton 329 – 244 3.22 4136 10 4/0/1
1966-93 Nolan Ryan 324 – 292 3.19 5714 8 0/1/2
1966-88 Don Sutton 324 – 256 3.26 3574 4 0/0/1
1964-87 Phil Niekro 318 – 274 3.35 3342 5 0/1/1
1962-83 Gaylord Perry 314 – 265 3.11 3534 5 2/1/0
1967-86 Tom Seaver 311 – 205 2.86 3640 12 3/2/1
1963-89 Tommy John 288 – 231 3.34 2245 4 0/2/0
1970-92 Bert Blyleven 287 – 250 3.31 3701 2 0/0/2
1965-83 Ferguson Jenkins 284 – 226 3.34 3192 3 1/2/2
1959-83 Jim Kaat 283 – 237 3.45 2461 3 0/0/0
1965-84 Jim Palmer 268 – 152 2.86 2212 6 3/2/1

Yrs. Pitched W - L ERA K All-Stars Cy Young (1st/2nd/3rd)
1986-2008 Greg Maddux 355 – 227 3.16 3371 8 4/1/2
1984-2007 Roger Clemens 354 – 184 3.12 4672 11 7/1/2
1987- Tom Glavine 305 – 203 3.54 2607 10 2/2/2
1988- Randy Johnson 295 – 160 3.26 4789 10 5/3/1
1991-2008 Mike Mussina 270 – 153 3.68 2813 5 0/1/0
1986- Jamie Moyer 246 – 185 4.19 2248 1 0/0/0
1989- Kenny Rogers 219 – 156 4.27 1968 4 0/0/0
1988-2007 Curt Schilling 216 – 146 3.46 3116 6 0/3/0
1995- Andy Pettite 215 – 127 3.89 2002 2 0/1/0
1992- Pedro Martinez 214 – 99 2.91 3117 8 3/2/1
1988- John Smoltz 210 – 147 3.26 3011 8 1/0/1

For the sake of argument, I’ll include Jack Morris here as well, though he falls between these two groups.

1977-94 Jack Morris 254 – 186 3.90 2478 5 0/0/2

Jayson Stark says he’ll vote for Jack Morris, but not for David Cone. The ONLY advantage Morris has is in wins. Cone has a WIDE lead in ERA, even though he pitched during the steroid era.

1986-2003 David Cone 194 – 126 3.46 2668 5 1/0/1

To summarize, Bert Blyleven might have been the 9th best pitcher of his generation. He did NOT pitch for bad teams, as some have suggested. His record for his career was similar to his team’s records (unlike Seaver’s record, which was much, MUCH higher than the teams he pitched for). I can not believe the 9th best pitcher of his generation deserves to be in the HOF. Was Blyleven better than anyone currently in the HOF? His numbers resemble a poor man's Nolan Ryan, without the 300 wins.

And where does that leave Morris/Cone? I don’t think either of them deserves inclusion. While Morris falls between these two groups, much, much better pitchers in each group overlap his time in the majors. Many argue in favor of him for two reasons: he was a workhorse, he was great in the postseason, and he was the #1 pitcher on his team.

That makes him a poor man’s Curt Schilling…worse numbers across the board, including the postseason. As for David Cone, he just didn’t pitch long enough – similar to Curt Schilling’s problem.

Finally, I think the following pitchers of our generation should get in (though Clemens’ steroid issue could cloud it): Maddux, Clemens, Glavine, R. Johnson, P. Martinez and Smoltz. After that, I think they fall into the John/Blyleven/Morris category.