Hall of Fame Index: Post World War II Pitching Tiers

Breaking pitchers into tiers is a little different from breaking position players into tiers. Because of the depth at starting pitcher, we are allotting 75 pitchers before World War II and 75 pitchers after World War II. This is the post-war list. Since we have increased the number to 75 we will be going with five tiers. Just like with the position players, the data will dictate the number of pitchers in each tier. I could arbitrarily slot 15 pitchers in each tier, but that would defeat the whole purpose of the index.

The goal here is to slot players with other players of similar value. It is a natural evolution of Bill James’ similarity scores where we try to find players of similar value. Naturally, some will argue that Pitcher A should be placed above Pitcher B. My goal isn’t to rank order players. It’s to refine the debate so that we avoid the Harold Baines problem.

Tier One

 CareerPeakIndex
Roger Clemens 360.3181.3541.6
Greg Maddux (B)302.9192.4495.3
Tom Seaver (B)279.9193.2473.1
Randy Johnson (B)276.7189.9466.6
Gaylord Perry (B)263.9173.9437.8
Warren Spahn (B)256.9165.8422.7
Bert Blyleven (B)265.1156.4421.5
Steve Carlton (B)259.9157.0416.9
Bob Gibson (B)234.8177.3412.1
Phil Niekro (B)248.8159.4408.2
Pedro Martinez (B)219.5184.2403.7
Ferguson Jenkins (B)228.8167.7396.5
Robin Roberts (B)228.4164.3392.7
Nolan Ryan (B)254.7133.1387.8

This is the very best of the best, but again I would like to caution the viewing public not to look too much into the order in which these pitchers appear. Obviously, guys on top are superior to guys on the bottom, but we can feel comfortable about the group as a whole. All of them are in the Hall of Fame except for Roger Clemens. Will Clemens ever get in the Hall of Fame? That topic probably deserves its own separate article.

We deal with tier one in the same fashion that we deal with tier one at the other positions. If you find a player on the outside looking in here then that player should be a priority in the voting. Joe Morgan can pen all of the nasty letters he wants to. Based on these numbers alone, Clemens deserves to be in. Of course, there are moral, ethical, and philosophical hurdles to clear. If the Hall of Fame is a museum then it can accurately address all of the parts of his history when and if they do put him in.

What strikes me as interesting is how the eras seem to be equally represented. We don’t see any current pitchers yet, but many of them are still in the prime of their careers. The major difference between the pitchers and position players is how we will look at tier two. For pitchers, it should also be an extension of tier one in terms of how the Hall of Fame should treat them.

Tier Two

 CareerPeakIndex
Curt Schilling209.7157.2366.9
Mike Mussina (B)218.0141.5359.5
Tom Glavine (B)210.2138.1348.3
John Smoltz (B)206.3134.6340.9
Kevin Brown192.7148.2340.9
Jim Palmer (B)187.4151.5338.9
Hal Newhouser (V)176.0161.5337.5
Don Sutton (B)216.0119.7335.7
Juan Marichal (B)176.7156.7333.4
Roy Halladay (B)172.1160.5332.6
Bob Feller (B)184.4144.3328.7
Don Drysdale (B)178.0149.7327.7
Jim Bunning (V)177.7147.7325.4
Early Wynn (B)181.1140.3321.4
Justin Verlander175.1144.2319.3
Clayton Kershaw162.3156.9319.2
Rick Reuschel185.7129.7315.4
C.C. Sabathia177.5131.0308.5
Zack Greinke163.4139.1302.5

Four of the bottom five are still active, so we are really only talking about three pitchers on the outside looking in from this group. I suspect Schilling will get in eventually, but Brown and Reuschel have fallen off the ballot. I’m not sure why Brown was considered that much worse than Schilling (or Mussina). The answer probably lies with won-loss records and things like playoff performance.

I had a lively discussion with a twitter friend about a lot of issues pertaining to rating pitchers. One of those discussions surrounding whether to reward a pitcher for what they actually did instead of using the defensive independent pitching statistics to judge performance. They are valid points. They may have some bearing here particularly for someone like Reuschel that seemed to struggle in the playoffs.

The implication of the tiers is not that any of those three definitely has to be in. It is that they are general fits based on the index. From there, voters can choose to give them the nod or not. The Veterans Committee can decide whether Brown or Reuschel is the best pitcher not in the Hall of Fame. They could say neither and be perfectly within normal bounds, but they need to be able to explain themselves if they don’t.

Tier Three

 CareerPeakIndex
Tommy John198.797.3296.0
Jim Kaat174.9119.6294.5
Whitey Ford (B)164.0125.3289.3
David Cone159.3127.4286.7
Luis Tiant171.6114.7286.3
Andy Pettitte173.0112.1285.1
Mickey Lolich 157.4125.1282.5
Sandy Koufax (B)142.2140.1282.3
Max Scherzer142.4136.8279.2
Dwight Gooden147.0130.0277.0
Chuck Finley157.4118.4275.8
Larry Jackson150.9124.9275.8
Felix Hernandez143.9130.8274.7

Just like with tier two with the position players, this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the index becomes more of a guide than an absolute edict. Why do we take consecutive seasons for peak value instead of just the ten best seasons? How can you really make a huge call based on five or six index wins? How do we account for things like missed seasons or playoff glory?

All of these are fine questions and ones that the index was not designed to answer directly. Remember, we are putting players into groups with players of similar value. The keen minds on the BBWAA and Veterans Committee can decide that Pettitte’s 19 postseason victories deserves an extra bump. They can also decide that admitting to PED use puts him in the penalty box. Do all of Kaat’s gold glove awards give him an edge? These are all very good questions the index was not designed to answer.

It seems alarmingly simple to assert that John and Kaat are very similar pitchers. Wouldn’t their basic numbers tell you that? Well yes, yes they would. However, as we will see with tier four and five, some pitchers that seemed similar to them really weren’t that similar. On the flip side, some might have compared Blyleven to those two and they would have been dead wrong. So, sometimes you can go with the conventional numbers, but most of the time we need a little more.

Tier Four

 CareerPeakIndex
Mark Buehrle155.7114.3270.0
Jerry Koosman164.2104.4268.6
Bucky Walters141.8126.3268.1
Frank Tanana163.8102.0265.8
Dizzy Trout142.8122.1264.9
Tim Hudson150.6113.6264.2
Dave Stieb142.2120.9263.1
Cole Hamels143.6119.0262.6
Bob Friend143.3119.1262.4
Bret Saberhagen140.2120.6260.8
Bobo Newsom150.7109.5260.2

The tiers have two secondary benefits beyond direct Hall of Fame comparisons. First, it gives all of us a frame of reference. I wasn’t alive when Bobo Newsom, Bob Friend, or Dizzy Trout were in their prime. I vaguely remember Jerry Koosman and Frank Tanana. Yet, I can imagine what type of pitcher they were (in terms of value) because they are similar to guys from my own generation on the list. That helps give historical context to all of these guys.

The second benefit is that it gives us an accurate idea of where current pitchers are. Cole Hamels appears to have some left in the tank based on his performance this year. How much does he need to vault into tier three? Tier two? If we imagine him being done in terms of peak value then we can add what we need to for career value to get him to say 300 index wins. So, maybe he needs three more good seasons.

It is probably just coincidence that none of these pitchers is in the Hall of Fame. As we will see with tier five, that won’t necessarily be the case. Again, if we repeat the Baines principle, we aren’t arguing that none of these pitchers is a Hall of Famer. We are arguing that they are not as fit as the pitchers in the first three tiers.

Tier Five

 CareerPeakIndex
Orel Hershiser146.0111.2257.2
Jack Morris (V)144.2111.6255.8
Ron Guidry131.9123.7255.6
Mark Langston136.1118.6254.7
Frank Viola127.1125.5252.6
Vida Blue134.7117.2251.9
Bob Lemon (B)126.6124.2250.8
Dutch Leonard148.4102.3250.7
David Wells153.896.7250.5
Sam McDowell123.5122.4245.9
Wilbur Wood124.9120.3245.2
Camilio Pascual127.8112.6240.4
Catfish Hunter (B)119.3110.9230.2
Jon Lester122.1106.9229.0
Curt Simmons139.788.1227.8
Claude Osteen120.3100.5220.8
Milt Pappas129.588.6218.1
Harry Brecheen112.6105.4218.0

Jack Morris is Exhibit A of how the Veterans Committee should not be handling its business. Is he a legitimate Hall of Famer? We could go fifteen rounds on that one. Was he the most qualified pitcher not in the Hall of Fame at the time? Of course not. Morris harkens back to a debate and a time when pitchers were supposed to win games. That’s what their job is according to the old guard. A 105 ERA+ says otherwise. An adjusted ERA+ of 104 also says otherwise.

Teams win games. Pitchers are a part of the team and some would argue the single most important player on the day he pitches, but the team still wins the game. It is foolish to blame a pitcher (particularly in the DH league) when his team loses 1-0. It is also foolish to credit him when the team wins 7-6. Yes, the rules dictate that if he goes five innings and is ahead when he leaves then he gets the win. It doesn’t mean we have to be a slave to it.

Of course, Hunter would appear to be the most egregious of all of the selections. Five consecutive 20 win seasons will do that. If you removed a few wins here and a few wins there (as Lee Sinins did in his encyclopedia) then all of the sudden Hunter doesn’t look so special. The aforementioned Twitter friend argued we should reward pitchers for what they actually accomplish and not what they were supposed to accomplish based on DIPS and batted ball data. I see and respect that point of view. However, giving anyone excessive credit for wins and losses just seems foreign to me.

Hall of Fame Index: Post War Pitchers OLI

As we close out with the on the outside looking in (OLI) pitchers from the post-war era it comes time to jumble up the order somewhat. We have been leading off with the index and then moving to conventional numbers, playoff numbers, and then the BWAR Cy young points. This time we will lead off with the conventional numbers. I will then introduce a metric I like to call “fielding neutral wins”. 

Normally, I would take credit for something like this, but I really can’t. Standing on the shoulders of giants leaves me cold. Others have pioneered these numbers before. Lee Sinins developed neutral wins and losses for his encyclopedia (please make a Mac friendly version if you are reading this). Those assumed average run support. We are simply taking the next step and going with average run support and average fielding support. I try not to reveal the findings until you see them in the table, but I think we all know what we are going to find.

Pitching Statistics

 WinsPCTERA+SO/9BB/9HR/9
Bobo Newsom211.4871075.04.10.5
Bucky Walters198.5531163.23.20.4
Dizzy Trout170.5141244.13.50.4
Dutch Leonard191.5131193.32.10.4
Harry Brecheen133.5911334.32.50.5
Don Newcombe149.6231144.72.01.1
Murry Dickson172.4871093.83.10.9
Schoolboy Rowe158.6101103.72.30.5

Again, we have two losing pitchers including the guy on top. How in the heck does that work? Well, obviously he didn’t get the run support he needed to win more often. However, what’s hidden is fielding support. Good teams tend to hit better than bad teams, but they also tend to field better. Some of these guys (Newcombe, Rowe, and Brecheen) did pitch for good teams, so this could be interesting.

What we are doing is dividing Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) by the league average ERA during the player’s career. That creates an adjusted ERA+ (or AERA+). We can then multiply the total number of decisions by half of that total to create an adjusted number of wins and losses. We will try to keep everything transparent in the table so that it makes more sense.

 DECPCTERAFIPAERA+AWins+/-
Bobo Newsom433.4873.983.81111240+29
Bucky Walters358.5533.303.82100179-19
Dizzy Trout331.5143.233.34120199+29
Dutch Leonard372.5133.253.34116216+25
Harry Brecheen225.5912.923.26119134+1
Don Newcombe239.6233.563.67111133-16
Murry Dickson353.4873.664.00100177+5
Schoolboy Rowe259.6103.873.56120155-3

These results are somewhat surprising as some of these pitchers got a ton of fielding support. When you compare ERA to FIP you can see that fact. Adjusted wins come with two issues. First, we aren’t considering bullpen support. That might not be a big deal when it comes to the post-war era, but it does have an impact. Lee Sinins (and I) did not consider no decisions. Well, if one surrenders one fewer run or an additional run then that likely could result in a decision one way or another.

The second consideration is a practical one. We see Trout adds 29 wins to his career total. Where do we add those wins specifically and how does that change how we look at him? Voters in particular love round numbers. 20-win seasons are somehow more magical than 18-win seasons. Since this was done in the aggregate, we would have to break down each season individually to see where those wins would be parceled out. In the interest of full disclosure, Sinins does do this for his neutral wins and losses, but his neutral wins and losses are based purely on run support.

It’s really no big surprise who the biggest losers were. Walters pitched for a good Cincinnati Reds team while Newcombe was toiling for the Boys of Summer. It shouldn’t be any surprise that they won more games than they should. I have no problem giving them credit for the wins they actually had because they were one of the reasons why their club was good. It is when we get into the mythology that “Pitcher A just knows how to win,” that we need to take a breath and a step back.

Career Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Bobo Newsom47.455.947.4150.7
Dutch Leonard49.052.846.6148.4
Dizzy Trout49.647.645.6142.8
Bucky Walters53.436.851.6141.8
Murry Dickson45.932.840.8119.5
Schoolboy Rowe42.540.136.0118.6
Harry Brecheen42.036.034.6112.6
Don Newcombe37.635.935.2108.7

The stated goal of the index is to look for gaps in data. We see a clear one between the top four and the bottom four. Of course, it does not necessarily allow for extenuating circumstances and we see that clearly with players that lose seasons to war service. Newcombe lost two seasons serving his country in Korea. With guys like Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella we could also see lost seasons to the color barrier. Newcombe may have lost some, but made his debut at 23, so it’s hard to assume.

Like with Bob Feller and Bob Lemon in the previous article, we take the three seasons before and the three seasons after to give us some idea of what he may have done. He went a combined 56-28 in the three seasons before his service and 56-20 in the three seasons after serving. So, we could assume two 18 or 19 wins per season in those two seasons. That would add between 36 and 38 wins to his overall record. That would give him more than 180 career victories instead of the pedestrian 149.

Of course, the problem with adding these numbers is that it assumes facts not in evidence. It also doesn’t adjust for how things rolled out. For instance, he went 9-8 with a 4.55 ERA in his season returning from war. We can naturally assume that he had a little rust in that season. It is conceivable that he could have had five consecutive seasons with 20 wins or more. We saw what happened when Catfish Hunter did that.

We say all this to say that historical context also has to be included in the process. We will look at peak value, playoff performance, and BWAR Cy Young points in addition to this. Even then, some things can get missed. So, we don’t lower the boom on debate here. If someone wants to stump for Newcombe I might be inclined to agree.

Peak Value

 BWARFWARWS/5TotalIndex
Bucky Walters48.633.744.0126.3268.1
Dizzy Trout43.640.737.8122.1264.9
Bobo Newsom33.342.234.0109.5270.2
Don Newcombe37.635.935.2108.7217.4
Harry Brecheen39.233.632.6105.4218.0
Dutch Leonard32.439.530.4102.3250.7
Murry Dickson39.326.731.497.4216.9
Schoolboy Rowe33.127.926.687.6206.2

The index was meant to classify players into groups. Newsom is certainly not better than Walters or Trout based solely on the index. It is meant to be a blunt instrument and not a surgeon’s scalpel. What it does do is frame the conversation. The conversation needs to take place, but when someone starts arguing vehemently for a Newcombe or Rowe then we know they need to apply some extra explanation for the gap between them and even the guys above him here.

Mind you, as we discussed with Newcombe there might be a case. Heck, maybe someone mentions Rowe as having the most interesting name in baseball history. Is that an exception? Well, stranger things have happened. All that being said, we must take a look at the playoff resumes for each of these pitchers to see if any of them deserve extra credit above and beyond the index.

Playoff Pitching

 W-LINNERASO/9BB/9HR/9
Schoolboy Rowe2-546.03.915.30.40.6
Harry Brecheen4-132.20.835.03.30.0
Bucky Walters2-229.02.793.72.20.3
Bobo Newsom2-228.12.865.41.90.0
Don Newcombe0-422.08.597.83.33.3
Murry Dickson0-118.23.863.92.40.5
Dizzy Trout1-215.21.725.72.30.0
Dutch Leonard

There is an expression in and out of the industry. Sooner or later, the player’s numbers will resemble the ones on the back of the card. Baseball cards didn’t include postseason numbers back in the day and if you want to get a lively debate going with statisticians then simply ask the question whether clutch performance exists. Still, there are two times of the year when fans and analysts alike overreact: April and October.

Newcombe obviously is hurt here and his failures are a part of the whole story between the Dodgers and Yankees in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Yet, can we really say this defines him as a player? To illustrate the point, you have Rowe and Brecheen right next to each other on the table. One won four games while the other won only two. One had an ERA under one while the other had one near four. Yet, if you put a blindfold over the first three numbers and only looked at DIPS you would swear that the names were reversed. Can a pitcher control batted ball luck? I suppose there is some truth to that, but not to the tune of three runs per nine innings.

The rest of the crowd was actually pretty good in the playoffs with the exception of Leonard. That’s the other hard part of playoff analysis. Do you punish him for not getting to the playoffs? I don’t think anyone would really claim to do that, but when you give extra credit for playoff performance to others you are inherently hindering him.

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CyPoints
Bucky Walters33134
Dutch Leonard24026
Bobo Newsom33024
Dizzy Trout12123
Harry Brecheen21121
Schoolboy Rowe32019
Murry Dickson60018
Don Newcombe40012

The numbers are not overwhelming here, and we didn’t really expect them to be overwhelming. Usually, the Cy Young points confirm what we are already thinking, but occasionally they reveal something we didn’t think about. Newcombe is bringing up the rear and that is a bit of a surprise. He won the first ever Cy Young award and the MVP award in the same season. That was back in the days when there was only one Cy Young winner. Obviously, those awards were based on wins (27 does jump off the screen) when he probably didn’t deserve to win all those games.

Walters ends up finishing around the neighborhood of Early Wynn in points. This seems about right and illustrates the difference between Hall of Famers and non-Hall of Famers. In their case, it was about longevity while with the others there were other things missing. At the end of the day, we probably couldn’t recommend any of these guys for the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Index: Post War II Hall of Fame Pitchers

We are reaching the end of the post-World War II pitching list. Something to keep in mind is that there were only 15 seasons in this particular era (1946-1960). So, the list of Hall of Famers will be smaller and it should be. We are eliminating a couple of Hall of Fame pitchers that had a cup of coffee in 1946 and 1947 but did the rest of their work before that. Before we move on to the four Hall of Famers, let me take a look at the data we were looking at and offer some interpretation. This time, we are using seasonal data by decade.

 SO/9BB/9SO+BB
19503.94.18.0
19605.23.48.6
19705.83.59.3
19804.83.17.9
19905.73.39.0
20006.53.810.3
20107.13.310.4
20188.53.211.7

We’ve discussed this before, but I think this bears repeating. This data has two major impacts on the game in general and on pitching specifically. Primarily, this helps account for how modern pitchers can be as valuable as their predecessors despite hurling fewer innings. Just in the last twn years, the strikeout rate has skyrocketed. Moreover, it helps explain one of the reasons why pitchers throw fewer innings.

Often, the talk of traditionalists infuriates me. On the one hand, they talk about how “we didn’t count no pitches” back in the good ol’ days, but then they also turn around and prattle on about Nolan Ryan or Bob Gibson and some 200-pitch game. Sure. How does one get there without counting pitches? So, we harken back to a time when the men were men and the livestock was nervous. The proliferation of the bullpens could be attributed to lack of durability, but I have a better solution. Let’s check out two randomly selected years (2018 and 1970) and see what you notice.

 INNERASO/9BB/9HR/9
2018 Starters260664.198.23.01.2
2018 Bullpen174224.088.93.61.1
 INNERASO/9BB/9HR/9
1970 Starters248663.935.73.40.9
1970 Bullpen9992.23.796.04.00.8

What we discover is that teams are using their bullpens more, but the interesting discovery isn’t that obvious fact, but the fact of why. Relievers outperformed starting pitchers in 1970 and today. Teams that can exploit that gap (in other words, make it bigger) win more games. Teams now are not afraid to try new things when the data shows they should. Most teams in 1970 were doing things the way they always did them because that was the way they were always done.

The point is that pitchers are throwing fewer innings for a multitude of reasons. First, it is taking them more pitches per inning (maybe on the order of five per inning) than it did back in 1950. So, if It takes a typical modern starter 15 pitches an inning then he reaches 100 in the sixth or seventh inning. A starter from the past could go a whole game and get to 100 pitches.

Secondly, teams are wiser about using their bullpens to their advantage. Teams that can stack two or three dominant relievers in the bullpen can effectively shorten the game to six innings. That becomes particularly huge when it comes to the playoffs. Of course, they play matchups as well and that slows the game down. It’s one thing to oppose this strategic change. I get that, but you can’t deny its effectiveness.

Finally, take a gander at many of the pitchers we have profiled. You’ll notice that a lot of them were virtually or completely done by their early thirties. Sure, you get the occasional Nolan Ryan that can pitch forever, but the modern era has those guys too. Every era does. The vast majority get to 3000 innings and peter out. That could come 200 per season for 15 years or it can come 250 a year for 12 seasons. I could go on about which method is better, but we need to move on to the post-war Hall of Famers.

Career Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Bob Feller63.462.658.4184.4
Early Wynn60.758.661.8181.1
Hal Newhouser62.560.752.8176.0
Bob Lemon47.932.346.4126.6

We call this the post-war era, but two of these pitchers were dramatically impacted by World War II and the Korean War. Feller lost three prime seasons and a large portion of 1945 serving his country. Lemon lost three prime years as well. If you ask Feller he would tell you that he was one of the greatest pitchers that ever lived. Yes, he was cocky, but he averaged 17 wins in the three seasons after the war and 25 wins in the three seasons before the war. Even splitting the difference gives him an additional 60 wins. That throws him over 300 for a career.

Put it another way, he averaged over seven wins a season (in terms of WAR) in those same six seasons. If we give him those 8 wins a season you add roughly 70 wins to his career value. Also, since it came during his prime you would also be adding to his peak value. The upshot is that he would have been amongst those all-time greats we saw earlier. 

Lemon is less dramatic as he averaged two and a half wins in the three seasons. If we conservatively give him an additional nine wins then he would have added 27 to his career value and a little more to his peak value. Maybe he adds 40 to 45 real wins in that time. That would put him close to or better than 250 wins for his career. So, there is more to these guys than the index.

Peak Value

 BWARFWARWS/5TotalIndex
Hal Newhouser57.555.646.4159.5335.5
Bob Feller55.047.541.8144.3328.7
Bob Lemon47.232.444.6124.2250.8
Early Wynn44.835.739.8120.3301.4

The index is designed to deal with exceptions. So, the cases for Feller and Lemon exist largely beyond the index (although Feller certainly qualifies with it). No one would ever claim seriously that Newhouser was better than Feller. The notion seems absurd and when you include the lost seasons you begin to see why. The same is true for Lemon to a lesser extent. If I were to haphazardly guess, I would guess his final index score would fall between 290 and 300 with those additional three seasons. However, it is impossible to know how the rest of their career would be impacted if they had not missed those seasons.

Newhouser and Wynn seem like comfortable choices. Ironically, three of the four pitched for the Indians at the same time. Those teams won only won World Series and advanced to only two. Had there been a league championship series or divisional round then who knows. That’s part of the fun of baseball back in those days.

Pitching Statistics

 WinsPCTERA+SO/9BB/9HR/9
Hal Newhouser207.5801305.43.80.4
Bob Feller266.6211226.14.10.5
Early Wynn300.5511074.63.50.7
Bob Lemon207.6181174.04.00.6

If we have learned anything we have learned about the folly of following wins and winning percentage. Let’s assume everything else were equal. Newhouser has a 130 ERA+ and won only 58 percent of his games. Newhouser had 337 decisions. If we apply his ERA+ then he should have won 236 games instead. Now, spread these out over a career and you are really talking. That would be a 236-91 record. That’s not half bad.

The others are less dramatic, but the point still comes through. ERA+ is probably the best single statistic when evaluating pitcher performance. Certainly, some things like longevity come into play, but you can tell a whole lot by looking at certain numbers. So, some of these conventional numbers are distractors from the truth. That’s why we look at as many numbers as we can.

Playoff Performance

 W-LINNERASO/9BB/9HR/9
Bob Lemon2-229.23.945.24.60.3
Hal Newhouser2-120.26.539.62.20.0
Early Wynn1-220.04.956.82.70.9
Bob Feller0-214.15.024.43.11.9

These numbers illustrate the dangers of focusing on small sample sizes. Newhouser somehow struck out more hitters, walked fewer hitters, and surrendered zero home runs and saw his numbers skyrocket. That makes no sense. Except, anything can happen in 20 innings. Meanwhile, a team with three Hall of Fame pitchers can only manage one World Series title. That makes Lemon, Wynn, and Feller the 1940s and 1950s version of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Are we really going to label them as chokers based on these numbers?

There are so many layers to performance and that is particularly true with less data. Somehow, bad BABIP luck can turn into a rap as a choke artist. Thank God these guys weren’t active now. The talking heads on ESPN and the MLB Network would be analyzing how they “always” seem to come up short. Of course, give them a divisional series and league championship series and the numbers would be far different.

Suffice it to say that none of them really help their cause with their playoff numbers, but beyond that there really is no reason to look too far into those bad performances. A bloop hit here and there suddenly makes you look horrible. That can happen over isolated starts. When you have more than 300 of them then these things tend to even themselves out.

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Bob Feller04350
Hal Newhouser13348
Early Wynn22236
Bob Lemon33024

Of course, there is no telling where Feller or Lemon would have been with those three seasons. In essence, the Cy Young points measure the fame level of the pitcher. Some pitchers are really good for a long time and others have spots of dominance that may not make them better over the long haul but certainly burn their memories into our mind. Essentially, we are looking for gaps and we see a significant gap after Newhouser and another after Wynn.

This doesn’t mean Feller was better. I think most observers would agree, but these numbers aren’t proof of that. What they do is give us a clearer picture of their respective careers when we consider all of the facts. We know Feller was occasionally brilliant while Wynn was more often just very good. Occasional brilliance is better for some than simple consistent production, but others prefer consistency. To each their own.

Hall of Fame Index: OLI Pitchers 1960-1980

When people make excuses for pitchers winning and losing they usually start and end with run support. That makes perfect sense. Pitchers don’t win too many games where their hitters drive in zero runs. Fortunately, the pitchers from the 1960 through 1980 didn’t have to worry as much about bullpen support. However, we shouldn’t overlook fielding support. This particular group of pitchers illustrate that point.

ERA+ is a more complicated statistic than it looks. It involves not only comparing a pitcher’s ERA to the league ERA, but also factoring in his home ballpark. That becomes even more complicated than when looked at the handedness of the pitcher. Not every park was symmetrical, so some skewed towards righties while others skewed towards lefties. We will ignore that for the time being and simply divide the pitcher’s FIP by the league average ERA.

 ERALERAFIPAERA+
Sam McDowell3.173.553.06116
Larry Jackson3.403.843.32114
Bob Friend3.583.833.35113
Camilo Pascual3.633.783.32112
Mickey Lolich3.443.583.20111
Wilbur Wood3.243.693.37110

Wood is the only one to have a higher FIP than ERA. The common assumption is that ERA and FIP evens out over time and that is certainly true most of the time, but it isn’t true all of the time. These guys all pitched for mediocre to below average teams, so there is a reason why they are below average. Considering average run support, we could surmise that most of these pitchers would have won several additional games. Add five wins and remove five losses from everyone’s record and they suddenly look a lot better.

FIP isn’t perfect, but it does help explain why the index is so close when some of these guys seem so far apart. Of course, we will see what happens when we get to the conventional pitching statistics. Suffice it to say, things may have turned out differently for each of these pitchers had they had better fielders behind them. That’s certainly not their fault.

Career Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Mickey Lolich48.064.644.8157.4
Larry Jackson52.053.945.0150.9
Bob Friend40.861.141.4143.3
Camilo Pascual40.852.035.0127.8
Wilbur Wood50.036.938.0124.9
Sam McDowell41.848.533.2123.5

When you see these numbers, you can’t but feel underwhelmed. Certainly, guys like Lolich and Jackson could end up being close depending on their peak value, but in all likelihood, they will come up short. So, we will see if there is anything else in their resume that could throw them over the top. At this point, it doesn’t look promising. Sometimes things work out that way. Sometimes eras are flush with great players at certain positions and sometimes they aren’t. This might be one of those eras.

That being said, these numbers were a lot more indicative of their ability than the conventional numbers. Bob Friend has a sub .500 record in his career. The Hall of Fame does not elect pitchers with a sub .500 records, but as we have seen, won-loss records had been very deceiving. 

Peak Value

 BWARFWARWS/5TotalIndex
Mickey Lolich39.250.735.2125.1282.5
Larry Jackson42.546.036.4124.9275.8
Sam McDowell42.447.832.2122.4245.9
Wilbur Wood49.335.835.2120.3245.2
Bob Friend35.849.933.4119.1262.4
Camilo Pascual37.144.730.8112.6240.4

These numbers aren’t awe inspiring, but they aren’t the end all be all of human existence. We have the conventional numbers to contend with, playoff performance numbers, and the BWAR Cy Young points. Any of those could throw a Mickey Lolich or Larry Jackson over the top. The others will need quite a bit more help, but there are pitchers in the Hall of Fame with worse numbers. That’s what complicates these things.

What we notice is that as we get further back in time it becomes harder to dominate on a consistent basis. At least, that is when we look at WAR and win shares. This is because when you strike out fewer hitters you end up putting more of the load on the fielders behind you. This could also explain why many of those position players have enhanced values as we move back in time.

It is no coincidence that Mickey Lolich and Sam McDowell were two of the top three peak value performers because they also had the highest strikeout rates. The more a pitcher can control the more valuable he is. FWAR scores were consistently higher. A quick look at any of the pitching numbers indicates they’ve gotten more intricate then the other two sources. At least publicly. If a pitcher can control contact, then he isn’t just locked into the standard DIPS.

Pitching Statistics

 WinsPCTERA+SO/9BB/9HR/9
Mickey Lolich217.5321047.02.70.9
Larry Jackson194.5151134.72.30.7
Bob Friend197.4611074.32.20.7
Sam McDowell141.5131128.94.70.6
Wilbur Wood164.5131144.72.40.7
Camilo Pascual174.5061036.73.30.8

We’ve already perused some of these numbers with earlier commentary and the opening table. If these pitchers had used their FIPs instead of their actual ERA then this might look different. Let’s say that Lolich won 222 games instead of 217. That also means he would have lost five fewer games. It might not be out of the realm of possibility to push that total up to ten games in some cases.

In particular, Friend is only under .500 in record only. His actual ERA was seven percent better than the league average and his FIP was even better than that. You put him on the Yankees, and he might have been in the Hall of Fame. So much of pitching is wrapped up in what a pitcher’s teammates do. Sometimes it’s just not fair.

Playoff Pitching Statistics

 W-LINNERASO/9BB/9HR/9
Mickey Lolich3-146.01.576.12.20.6
Bob Friend0-26.013.5010.54.50.0
Camilo Pascual0-15.05.400.01.80.0
Larry Jackson
Sam McDowell
Wilbur Wood

Lolich is the only one that has any significant postseason resume and it’s a good one. All three wins came in the 1968 World Series where he managed to outduel Bob Gibson. Is that enough to throw him over the threshold? Stranger things have happened. It’s hard to hold any kind of lack of resume against the rest of these guys. It illustrates the point that their teams were not good enough to give them the kind of support they deserved.

This is where voting for the Hall of Fame becomes difficult. Looking for that little something extra to throw a guy over the top is predicated on him having the opportunity to give you that little something extra. So, the Hall of Fame elect players from good teams. Sure, good teams have more good players, but there is an inherent bias towards good teams. Sometimes teams are good because a player is good and sometimes players are good because their teams are good.

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Sam McDowell13238
Camilo Pascual03235
Bob Friend04130
Larry Jackson22126
Wilbur Wood22126
Mickey Lolich22016

Interesting how the objective results reveal something other than what the writers saw. The writers saw pitchers that struggled to win games and the objective numbers saw seven Cy Young awards in the group. Sam McDowell becomes a more household name than he already is. Pascual would become an actual name. Would it have been enough for the BBWAA? I suppose anything is possible.

What we do know is that the candidacy of Lolich is a mixed bag. He earns extra points in playoff performance but loses points in the Cy Young award voting. He also came up a tad short in the index. So, I’m fine with where he is, but also respect those that would like him to get in. There are certainly plausible arguments on both sides.

Hall of Fame Index: Hall of Fame Pitchers 1960-1980

As we continue to move through the index, we find a standard establishing itself as it pertains to the Hall of Fame and starting pitchers. Standards are meant to be broken and we will see them broken on pitchers that retired between 1960 and 1980. Sometimes that is for a good reason and sometimes the reasons are a bit peculiar. We will go through our multitude of tests to determine if the exceptions were warranted.

The index was never meant to be rigid or to rank order players. I say that in almost every article because it should be repeated. The temptation is to use it for something it wasn’t intended to be used for. This becomes more problematic when comparing players from different eras. How does one compare Warran Spahn and Randy Johnson and make a final determination? You certainly wouldn’t do it with something like the index.

What we can do is demonstrate whether someone is fit for the Hall of Fame based on his place within the index. If he is amidst a group of pitchers that are also Hall of Famers then he probably should be. If he isn’t in a group of Hall of Famers then he probably shouldn’t be. There will always be exceptions, but that’s the general idea.

Career Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Warren Spahn99.774.882.4256.9
Bob Gibson89.182.363.4234.8
Robin Roberts85.974.767.8228.4
Jim Bunning59.466.951.4178.7
Don Drysdale67.159.351.6178.0
Juan Marichal62.961.252.6176.7
Whitey Ford56.954.952.2164.0
Sandy Koufax48.954.538.8142.2
Catfish Hunter40.937.241.2119.3

What we know is that Sandy Koufax and Catfish Hunter will not reach the 300-win threshold. We know Whitey Ford will likely come up short. So, the question is whether they have done enough to overcome that deficit. We can start with Ford. Ford has the highest winning percentage of all-time for any pitcher with 100 or more decisions (.690) and held the record for most consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play. I’d say that’s pretty stout.

As we know, Sandy Koufax may have had the best five year stretch in the history of the game. It say him win three Cy Young awards and he probably could have won it every year if they wanted to give him the award each time. Hunter won 20 or more games five seasons in a row when the A’s won three World Series titles and the Yankees advanced to the World Series. Let’s take a look at their best five year stretches to compare the three.

 WinsPCTERA+SO/9BB/9HR/9
Sandy Koufax111.7661689.52.10.6
Whitey Ford78.7031485.53.60.5
Catfish Hunter111.6941285.02.10.9

We will see the pitching numbers in due time, and we will look at the peak value numbers as well, but this was cherrypicked to benefit Hunter. Ford’s career certainly didn’t set out nice and neat with five-year intervals. Koufax may have been better if we took just the last four seasons. Still, Hunter doesn’t come close to equaling the overwhelming value that they two pitchers had when they were at their best. This isn’t the nail in his coffin, but it certainly does pour cold water on his case.

Peak Value

 BWARFWARWS/5TotalIndex
Bob Gibson73.154.649.6177.3411.9
Warren Spahn68.449.448.0165.8425.7
Robin Roberts63.453.747.2164.3392.7
Juan Marichal58.552.445.8156.7333.4
Don Drysdale56.650.542.6149.7327.7
Jim Bunning52.653.741.4147.7326.4
Sandy Koufax48.353.838.0140.1282.3
Whitey Ford42.943.838.6125.3289.3
Catfish Hunter39.434.736.8110.9230.2

We aren’t looking for exact numbers here. Choosing between Koufax and Ford in terms of value makes little sense. One was tremendous for five seasons while the other was very good over the course of a decade. How does one choose one of those over the other. Of course, we all make those choices when debating amongst our friends, but any official way is out of the question.

The same could be said for Drysdale and Bunning. One was better for longer while the other was better over a shorter spurt. We could throw Marichal into that group as well. We can always choose one over the other but doing so would be based on aesthetics. However, we do see a gap between the group and Hunter. This is where the index comes into play. We are looking for gaps and we found a huge one.

There is also a significant gap on top of the list as well. We always see this too. This is why we divide each positions into tiers. The idea is to place players into groups of other similar players and then adjust accordingly. I might personally prefer Koufax to Ford, but I wouldn’t definitively say he was better.

Pitching Statistics

 WinsPCTERA+SO/9BB/9HR/9
Warren Spahn363.5971194.42.50.7
Bob Gibson251.5911277.23.10.6
Robin Roberts286.5391134.51.71.0
Juan Marichal243.6311235.91.80.8
Don Drysdale209.5571216.52.20.7
Jim Bunning224.5491156.82.40.9
Whitey Ford236.6901335.63.10.6
Sandy Koufax165.6551319.33.20.8
Catfish Hunter224.5741045.22.51.0

This is one of those SAT kinds of questions. Which of these does not belong? The answer is clearly Hunter as his ERA+ is considerably lower than the others. He and Roberts were also the only ones to give up a home run per nine innings. On the flip side, we see Ford’s .690 winning percentage in all of its glory. It’s hard to justify giving extra credit for winning when we have spent so much time dispelling wins and losses as a credible source. However, when coupled with his 133 ERA+ it is quite impressive.

Obviously, whenever you have an ERA+ over 120 and you have a winning percentage north of .600 it is a sign that you might be fit for the Hall of Fame. Ford and Marichal are the only ones to do that with 200 or more wins. Just looking at these numbers, Roberts and Bunning would seem to be marginal candidates, but they both enjoyed long careers as we saw in the index.

Of course, Hunter was known as a big game pitcher, so maybe the playoff numbers will demonstrate something different. The playoff performance test is the only test completely independent of the index, so we don’t necessarily know how things will turn out. Often our perceptions of history and the actual history are far different.

Playoff Performance

 W-LINNERASO/9BB/9HR/9
Whitey Ford10-8146.02.715.82.10.5
Catfish Hunter9-6132.13.264.82.41.4
Bob Gibson7-281.01.8910.21.90.7
Sandy Koufax4-357.00.959.61.70.3
Warren Spahn4-356.03.055.12.10.8
Don Drysdale3-339.22.958.22.71.8
Juan Marichal0-112.01.507.51.51.5
Robin Roberts0-111.01.644.12.50.8
Jim Bunning

It’s hard to stand out in this crowd. Hunter technically has the highest ERA of the group, but a 3.26 is a pretty damn good ERA. In the last post we postulated that the additional leverage in playoff situations might make every inning seem like two. In that case, Hunter might be worth an additional five to six wins per platform. That still wouldn’t be enough to overcome his deficit. More to the point, the numbers above really don’t add a whole lot to the profile.

Koufax and Ford do add some considerable cache to their profiles. Ford has won more World Series games than any pitcher in history (without benefit of the league championship series, wild card, or divisional round). Koufax sports an ERA under 1.00 and still managed to lose three games. He lost three games in which he surrendered only one earned run. Ridiculous. Are we still going to hold on to wins and losses as a valuable pitching statistic.

Gibson had a similar experience where he pitched brilliantly, but not as brilliantly as Mickey Lolich in the 1968 World Series. Still a 7-2 record and a sub 2.00 ERA is brilliant to be sure. With the exception of Bunning (who was never lucky enough to pitch in the postseason) all of these guys acquitted themselves well.

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Warren Spahn111168
Robin Roberts12563
Bob Gibson34359
Don Drysdale33244
Jim Bunning33244
Sandy Koufax13238
Juan Marichal14133
Whitey Ford44032
Catfish Hunter22016

Koufax won three Cy Young awards during his career. The difference of one may not seem like a lot, but there is only one pitcher with three or more Cy Young awards out of the Hall of Fame. He is on top of the list but likely won’t get in because of steroids. Meanwhile, Hunter has a Cy Young award, but the numbers here say he didn’t deserve it. We didn’t include the actual Cy Young points because some of these pitchers pitched before the award was handed out. Offering those points would skew the results even further.

For instance, Robin Roberts was shut out largely because more than half of his career came before the award. Spahn came out looking pretty good, but not nearly as good as he looks above. The same could be said for Bunning and Ford. So, from here on out we will be using only the BWAR points. It doesn’t really tell us anything new. It simply demonstrates the obvious in a different way.

Hall of Fame Index: OLI Pitchers 1980-2000 Part II

Serendipity is a curious thing. One of the great thing about sports is that the aggregate takes care of us over time, but in any individual moment anything can happen. Take the curious case of Dan Johnson. He hit 57 big league home runs over the course of his career. He sported a .741 OPS and managed almost 1400 plate appearances. One of those came in the 9thinning of the final game in 2011. His dinger tied the game and sent it into extra innings where Evan Longoria won it. It got the Rays into the playoffs. Serendipity.

The index (and most of the other tests) don’t measure when events happen. They simply measure that they do. So, let’s consider two teammates who were both integral to the success of the Athletics in the 1970s. We will use the vaunted Player A and Player B test. Now, tell me which of these guys is the Hall of Famer.

 WinsPCTERA+20 WBWAR CY
Player A209.565108321
Player B224.574104516

What’s the major difference? Pitcher B won 20 or more games five times (consecutively) during the midst of the A’s period of dominance. He advanced to four World Series in those five seasons and arguably was a huge part of all of those pennants. Player A was not quite that good during that stretch, but over the course of a career they were roughly equal. In fact, Player A comes out looking a little better overall. Player A is Vida Blue and Player B is Catfish Hunter. 

This is not to say that Blue belongs in the Hall of Fame. In fact, the opposite is likely true as we will see. What it does say is that the writers have more on their plate than simply looking at raw data. When someone accomplished their numbers is as important as the numbers themselves. You could argue that the A’s would have been just another decent team without Hunter on top of the rotation. Whatever he was before 1972 and after 1976, he will brilliant during that time and baseball history wouldn’t be the same. Is that worthy of a Hall of Fame vote? Well, we will get to Hunter next time.

Career Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Orel Hershiser56.048.042.0146.0
Dave Stieb56.443.842.0142.2
Bret Saberhagen58.842.838.6140.2
Mark Langson50.149.236.8136.1
Vida Blue45.149.240.4134.7
Ron Guidry47.849.334.8131.9
Frank Viola46.942.837.4127.1

No, Vida Blue is not a Hall of Famer and shouldn’t be. The same is likely true for all of these guys. However, some of them have moments that stick out in baseball history and deserve a second look. For one magical season each, Hershiser and Guidry could do no wrong. 1988 and 1978 respectively were magical seasons that are forever burned into our brain cells. Saberhagen has two Cy Young awards to his name and Viola happened to be brilliant at exactly the right time as the Twins went on to win the 1991 World Series.

Langston and Stieb were more of the “they were very good for a while” category. Stieb was on a Hall of Fame path when injuried derailed his career. Langston was just not good enough for long enough to get over the hump. Statistically, they all wind up virtually in the same place, but the BBWAA had to consider more than just statistics. Still, they aren’t putting any of these guys in.

Peak Value

 BWARFWARWS/5TotalIndex
Frank Viola48.141.835.6125.5252.6
Ron Guidry45.046.332.4123.7255.6
Dave Stieb49.036.535.4120.9263.1
Bret Saberhagen48.738.333.6120.6260.8
Mark Langston44.243.431.0118.6254.7
Vida Blue38.345.733.2117.7252.3
Orel Hershiser44.636.630.0111.2257.2

You could throw a blanket over these guys and cover them all. Their values are similar, but how they arrived at that value is unique to each of them. One of my favorite lines in classic rock was Shine on You Crazy Diamond’s, “you wore out your welcome with random precision.” Is precision really random? Is clutch performance random or is it something real that we can measure?

Hershiser has the worst peak value of any pitcher here. Yet, in 1988 he produced a legendary season that culminated with 59 consecutive scoreless innings to close out the year. As we will see, he was also brilliant in the playoffs. So, maybe some people are clutch when it counts. We are making process with tracking high, medium, and low leverage situations but that’s still somewhat elusive. The raw data indicates that Hershiser belongs in a group of pitchers that aren’t quite good enough to get in. Maybe some think of him and Guidry differently because of their extreme picks that seemed to coincide with ultimate team success.

Still, when you see the final tiered system for pitchers after World War II, you will see how hard it is to justify bumping them up that much. It’s okay to be really good and occasionally great. Pittsburgh fans still go to the site where Bill Mazeroski walked off of the field with a game winning home run in the 1960 World Series. There is a huge celebration there and he is lauded as a hero. These moments in time become frozen for us and we immediately go back to a time when our heroes were our heroes and they could do no wrong. So, I’m very sensitive to the push back against analytics. That being said, you have to watch yourself before you put in an inferior player because of a great moment.

Pitching Statistics

 WinsPCTERA+SO/9BB/9HR/9
Dave Stieb176.5621225.23.20.7
Bret Saberhagen167.5881266.01.70.8
Orel Hershiser204.5761125.82.90.7
Ron Guidry170.6511196.72.40.9
Mark Langston179.5311077.53.90.9
Frank Viola176.5401125.92.70.9
Vida Blue209.5651085.93.20.7

Some voters treat their voting as if they are going to the all you eat buffet. Does the pitcher have at least 200 wins? Does he have a winning percentage better than 55 percent? Is his ERA+ north of 110? Did he have a two to one strikeout to walk ratio? All of these can be indicators of greatness, but it doesn’t address what happens when you check off some of the boxes but leave others blank.

All of these pitchers have some of the marks of being a Hall of Famer. Okay, maybe Mark Langston doesn’t have those particular markers, but when you added up strikeout totals he would enter the list. Saberhagen and Stieb probably needed two or three more prime seasons to get into the Hall of Fame conversation. Hershiser didn’t even need that as he checks off all of the minimum boxes. Guidry and Blue are both one category short of fulfilling all of the so-called minimum requirements. All in all, we see what we would expect to see from a group of pitchers that are pretty close in terms of index value.

Playoff performance is often the great equalizer. It is the one variable that the index does not directly or indirectly account for. The Cy Young points (BWAR or otherwise) are instructive, but they don’t instruct us on value. They instruct us on reputation and also serve to illustrate value in a different way.

Playoff Performance

 W-LINNERASO/9BB/9HR/9
Orel Hershiser8-3132.02.596.62.90.5
Vida Blue1-564.24.316.53.20.8
Ron Guidry5-262.23.027.33.60.7
Bret Saberhagen2-454.04.676.31.81.8
Dave Stieb1-331.24.268.04.50.9
Frank Viola3-131.14.317.22.30.9
Mark Langston0-02.013.504.59.04.5

On a long enough time line the survival rate drops to zero. We include the so-called DIPS (defense independent pitching statistics) rates because they become illustrative of whether the pitcher’s raw numbers are from poor performance or just bad batted ball luck. In the course of 2000 or 3000 innings those things usually work themselves out. Over the course of 30, 40, and 50 innings they can fluctuate wildly.

For instance, Orel Hershiser has a good strikeout to walk ratio. He limited the number of home runs hit. Blue gave up a few more dingers and his ratio wasn’t quite as good, but it was similar. Is that worth two runs of difference per nine innings? I doubt it. So, it’s instructive to look at both the raw numbers and the rate statistics. Heck, Viola should have been the best pitcher of the group based on his rate statistics.

Beyond those limitations we get the question of how much weight to apply to playoff performance. I’m certainly not holding Langston’s two innings against him. Could we say the relative leverage involved makes the playoffs worth two times the regular season? In a standard 180 inning season, Hershiser’s totals would be equivalent to a season and a half. Maybe we could give him seven or eight wins (or 20 career value index wins) and apply that accordingly. He still comes up short of 300 index wins, but his resume suddenly looks a whole lot better.

The rest might equal that of a season in the case of Blue, Saberhagen, or Guidry. Those might be worth between three and five wins respectively. Obviously, that wouldn’t be the same dramatic impact as Hershiser and the adjustments would scale down for Viola and Stieb. I like the idea of looking at playoff performance as an additional factor, but I don’t want to parcel out wins the same way as we do in the regular season.

BBWAA Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Ron Guidry23131
Bret Saberhagen01225
Orel Hershiser03125
Vida Blue31124
Frank Viola12123
Dave Stieb22016
Mark Langston1108

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Dave Stieb13346
Bret Saberhagen12233
Orel Hershiser12233
Ron Guidry12123
Vida Blue23021
Frank Viola04020
Mark Langston32019

The 1980s crowd represents the last time we can really evaluate BBWAA Cy Young Award voting in full and you can see the differences. Ironically, the group was more bunched when the writers were voting than when we look at the actual WAR results. Stieb might be one of the more underrated pitchers in the history of the game. He was just never a big winner for a Blue Jays team that had talent but weren’t one of the better teams in the league for the most part. It didn’t improve when he went to the White Sox.

These things might seem trivial, but let’s consider the consequences. What if Stieb had won three Cy Young awards or if Hershiser had won two. Maybe that makes a big difference to the less sophisticated Hall of Fame voter. As you can probably imagine, Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer or viewed in different lights now that they have become multiple winners. 

On the flip side, you take one away from Viola and Blue and their candidacies look a little worse for wear. It’s amazing how one little thing can affect the perception of a player for better or worse. As for Hunter, we will see him next time when we profile the Hall of Fame pitchers that retired between 1960 and 1980.

Hall of Fame Index: OLI Pitchers 1980-2000 Part One

We addressed the situation of diminishing strikeouts and walks earlier. I think it is always good to revisit that when we get new information. For one, it demonstrates the changes in the game over time. Secondly, it demonstrates some key markers to determine success in pitchers. For our purposes, “HOF” will be for those in the Hall of Fame and “OLI” will be for those not in the Hall of Fame.

 SO/9BB/9SO+BB
Current Starters8.92.511.4
2000-Present HOF7.92.510.4
2000-Present OLI6.92.69.5
1980-2000 HOF6.52.99.4
1980-2000 OLI5.92.78.6

We see two distinct patterns here as we move back through history. First, the Hall of Famers have more strikeouts than their counterparts out of the Hall of Fame. Secondly, we see fewer walks and strikeouts as we move back in time. These numbers are not surprising, but they deserve mention anyway. The best pitchers miss bats and limit walks. I know this isn’t news, but with all of the talk of “pitching to contact” it deserves to be mentioned again and again.

Secondly, when you start talking about the difference between eight walks and strikeouts per game and eleven strikeouts and walks per game you are talking about the difference of about ten pitches per game. That could equal one extra inning. Suddenly, a six-inning pitcher becomes a seven-inning pitcher. This could become even more dramatic as we keep going back in time. If we get to 20 pitches then you could be talking two innings.

We are breaking the pitchers that on the outside looking in into two groups. This group are those that are fairly close to getting in. Think of it as a preliminary tiers format. This is the first tier of guys on the outside looking in. The index scores determine the tiers, but they don’t necessarily determine who should be in and who should be out. It just helps us categorize players into groups that helps facilitate the discussion.

Career Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Tommy John61.579.457.8198.7
Rick Reuschel69.568.248.0185.7
Jim Kaat50.470.953.6174.9
Luis Tiant65.654.851.2171.6
Jerry Koosman53.662.648.0164.2
Frank Tanana57.158.548.2163.8
Dwight Gooden52.956.737.4147.0

It’s hard to calculate things that happen off the field. John is famous for having the first successful ligament replacement surgery (the surgery is now named after him). How much credit do you give him for recovering and going on to have a successful career? Do you give him the credit or do you give it to Dr. Frank Jobe. If you give him credit, then how much do you bump him up? These are all difficult questions.

For the rest, they may get a bump through playoff performance or other factors related to peak performance or great moments. This is why we look at the index, but we also look at the pitching numbers, playoff performance, and the Cy young voting. In concert we hope all of them will give us a clearer picture. In addition to John, the clear favorite out of the gate is Rick Reuschel. Obviously, that’s a bit of a surprise, but it also one of the reasons why we don’t focus strictly on conventional numbers.

Peak Value

 BWARFWARWS/5TotalIndex
Dwight Gooden47.052.230.8130.0277.0
Rick Reuschel51.146.632.0129.7315.4
Jim Kaat42.045.632.0119.6294.5
Luis Tiant45.435.733.6114.7286.3
Jerry Koosman35.038.431.0104.4268.6
Frank Tanana38.536.127.4102.0265.8
Tommy John32.338.826.297.3296.0

I detest hard and fast cutoffs. John and Kaat did not get to the magic 300 mark (in conventional wins or index wins), but we know what John has in his corner. Kaat won about 30 Gold Glove awards (seemingly) so both have extra points in their favor before we get to the other tests. Reuschel breaks the threshold but doesn’t seem to have anything special in his corner. So, I suppose one could overlook his candidacy.

The other interesting guy here is Tiant. He has a sterling big game reputation and he comes fairly close to the threshold. So, that is a developing situation as well. The rest are good pitchers that deserve their due, but they just don’t cut the mustard at this point. Still, we include them here because they give us a good frame of reference from which to judge the other pitchers we are considering.

Pitching Statistics

 WinsPCTERA+SO/9BB/9HR/9
Rick Reuschel214.5281145.12.40.6
Tommy John288.5551114.32.40.6
Jim Kaat283.5441084.92.20.8
Luis Tiant229.5711146.22.80.9
Dwight Gooden194.6341117.43.10.7
Jerry Koosman222.5151106.02.80.7
Frank Tanana240.5041066.02.71.0

It’s hard to look at these numbers and think of Rick Reuschel as a Hall of Famer. He didn’t win a ton of games and he didn’t have a stellar winning percentage. His ERA+ was good, but not great and his other rate statistics don’t jump off the page. He was consistently good for a long time. For some, that isn’t enough and that’s perfectly fair. Tiant has the exact same ERA+ with more wins, a better winning percentage, and better rate statistics. So, isn’t he supposed to be the sure-fire Hall of Famer?

The answer to that question is a bit of a puzzle. Reuschel played for the Cubs. They were a second division team throughout the 1970s. Tiant pitched for the Red Sox and Yankees who were perennial playoff contenders. That obviously has a bit of impact on their ability to win games and avoid losing games.

It also should be noted that Reuschel’s career fielding independent pitching (FIP) was considerably lower than his career ERA. If you used his FIP in place of his ERA his ERA+ would have been 119. That’s a considerable difference and that is the other point that has to be made when looking at the quality of team a pitcher plays on.

Playoff Performance

 W-LINNERASO/9BB/9HR/9
Tommy John6-388.12.654.92.40.6
Dwight Gooden0-459.03.977.54.00.9
Jerry Koosman4-040.13.796.93.80.9
Luis Tiant3-034.22.865.22.90.5
Rick Reuschel1-432.15.853.93.30.3
Jim Kaat1-324.24.013.62.90.4
Frank Tanana0-110.14.353.55.21.7

This is an ebb and flow kind of situation. John comes out looking really good here. Add that to his place in the history of the game and you have something there. Reuschel also looked a little worse even though he clears the threshold in the index. This is the problem with using the index by itself. It doesn’t always come with enough information to make an intelligent choice. It takes as much information as possible.

Tiant is the other big name here and he didn’t disappoint. It was more interesting that these numbers came primarily as a Red Sox when they weren’t winning the World Series. They were up against perhaps the best team in the 1970s and he still came out ahead. So, if we look at these results we would bump up John and Tiant and knock Reuschel down. However, we haven’t looked at the Cy Young points yet.

Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Dwight Gooden13128
Tommy John13018
Luis Tiant12013
Frank Tanana12013
Rick Reuschel12013
Jerry Koosman1108
Jim Kaat0105

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Rick Reuschel35144
Luis Tiant52135
Dwight Gooden20226
Jim Kaat33024
Jerry Koosman12123
Frank Tanana02120
Tommy John31014

Generally speaking, all of these pitchers were underappreciated. John is the only one that came out better in the Cy Young points. He had more 20+ win seasons than most of these pitchers. Of course, we can’t get out of this discussion without mentioning Gooden. At this peak, he was among the best pitchers in the history of the game. Unfortunately, that peak did not last long enough and was often interrupted.

The reasons why his career were cut short was unique (drugs). He lost an entire season during the prime of his career that may have thrown him over the top had he been healthy and pitched well. Baseball history is full of these guys. The sentence usually starts off with, “he would be in the Hall of Fame if…” They usually don’t put that on a plaque.

At the end of the day, Reuschel is a coin flip. How much stock do you put in playoff performance versus something like the index? Just because someone is north of 300 index wins doesn’t mean they have to be in. It means they are fit according to that test. I could see a vote for Kaat and John even though they come up a bit short. We have to remember the key question: who is the best pitcher not in the Hall of Fame? I’m not sure it is any of these guys.