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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 10||Top 5||CY||Points|
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.