Hall of Fame Index: HOF Live Ball Era Pitchers Part II

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I don’t like rating pitchers nearly as much as rating position players. There’s just so much that is uncertain. That becomes even more of a factor the further we go back in time. As we look at the secondary Hall of Fame list from the Live Ball Era we go head long into a debate that will likely continue into the foreseeable future. How much control do pitchers have over balls in play?

If you want to participate in a cringe worthy activity, you can always go back and read past writings. Some of my books are 15 or more years old. The things we knew then pale in comparison to what we know now. Since this is the case, I find myself avoiding making declarative statements. So, I’m not going to say that pitchers can’t control what happens after the bat meets the ball, but I think we can definitively say that fielders and the home ballpark have a say in what happens to the ball. Now, the question that vexes us is to determine how much control each party has.

Are pitchers able to instinctively adapt to their surroundings? I think that’s true to a certain extent. A Lefty Gomez probably utilized the cavernous dimensions in Yankee Stadium to his advantage. The same might be true of the others in terms of the fielding strengths and weaknesses of the fielders behind him. So, while we focus on the defensive independent pitching statistics, we need to take a look at the other batted ball data we have on record. In an individual season it might reflect luck or random chance, but over the course of a career we might see some trends. Let’s take a look before we dive into the index.

Red Faber3.153.4368.5%.277
Burleigh Grimes3.533.6467.1%.286
Herb Pennock3.603.5067.6%.293
Waite Hoyt3.593.7667.9%.283
Dizzy Dean3.023.2271.7%.284
Lefty Gomez3.343.8872.0%.269

With modern pitchers we would add the type of contact. They break it down by groundballs, flyballs, and line drives. They break it down by hard hit contact, medium contact, and soft contact. They have home runs per flyball data and the percentage of pop ups. We have none of this for these guys. What we do see is that five of the six have better ERAs than FIP (Fielding Independent pitching). 

This is important because it gives us a glimpse of why the three systems rate pitchers differently. Four have very similar left on base percentages and then there is Dean and Gomez. Were they considerably better pitching in high pressure situations or is this a matter of random luck? Both saw ERAs considerably better than FIP. Was this because the fielding was better behind them or because they utilized their fielders in a more efficient way? Different statistical systems have different answers to those questions.

I suppose that our conception of all of these guys could continue to change as we learn more about the relationship between pitchers, hitters, and fielders. Exactly how much control pitchers have is still in doubt. We continually understand more as time goes on. This is why we look for gaps in the index. There will likely always be gaps. Individual scores may vary.

Career Value

Red Faber63.954.758.4177.0
Burleigh Grimes52.752.357.2162.2
Waite Hoyt52.648.952.4153.9
Herb Pennock45.547.948.0141.4
Dizzy Dean45.840.936.2122.9
Lefty Gomez38.434.637.0110.0

Iconic teams often produce Hall of Famers. That is even true of the infamous 1919 White Sox. Eddie Collins and Ray Schalk are also in Cooperstown. Ironically, Faber wasn’t available in the World Series. Maybe they end up winning the World Series and those eight players never get banned for life. Hoyt and Pennock both pitched for the 1927 Yankees and were arguably the two best pitchers on that team.

Gomez and Dean also pitched for great teams in the 1930s. This is why it is so hard to parse out praise and blame. Both pitchers won well more than 60 percent of their games. None of the other pitchers on this list managed that. They also pitched for dramatically better teams during their career.

Peak Value

Burleigh Grimes44.238.242.0124.4286.6
Dizzy Dean45.740.536.0122.2245.1
Herb Pennock44.835.237.6117.6259.0
Red Faber42.437.335.8115.5292.5
Lefty Gomez38.434.637.0109.9219.9
Waite Hoyt35.530.935.4101.8255.7

Grimes might have gotten into the Hall of Fame partially on the basis of being a historical oddity. He threw the last legal spitball in the big leagues. All pitchers that threw spitballs before 1920 were grandfathered in when they outlawed the pitch in 1920. He pitched well into the 1930s and came relatively close to meeting the standard. I suppose you could make an exception in his case, but it seems to be a rather weird reason to offer an exception.

Both Gomez and Dean lasted a little more than ten seasons, so their peak and career values are very similar. However, in general these pitchers did not bring a ton of peak value to the table. They won big and played for great teams, but we couldn’t really call any of them great for any extended period of time.

Pitching Statistics

Red Faber254.5441193.22.70.2
Burleigh Grimes270.5601083.32.80.3
Herb Pennock241.5981063.12.30.3
Waite Hoyt237.5661122.92.40.4
Dizzy Dean150.6441315.32.10.4
Lefty Gomez189.6491255.33.90.5

Dean and Gomez were definitely different pitchers. They struck out more hitters in addition to limiting the runs of players on base. They just didn’t do it for long enough to garner the index score necessary to be fits for the Hall of Fame. As before, we hesitate to say someone doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Yet, we cannot ignore the fact that most of these selections were Veterans Committee selections.

Ironically, Pennock and Hoyt are perhaps the biggest head scratchers of the bunch. Neither really distinguished themselves beyond being members of the 1927 Yankees. At least Dean and Gomez had some high-profile seasons to call their own. Naturally, this is where the playoff performance and Cy Young points come into play.

Playoff Pitching

Waite Hoyt6-483.21.835.32.40.2
Burleigh Grimes3-456.
Herb Pennock5-055.11.953.91.30.5
Lefty Gomez6-050.12.865.52.70.4
Dizzy Dean2-234.12.885.01.61.0
Red Faber3-127.02.333.01.00.3

All of these guys showed well in the playoffs. You could certainly argue that Hoyt’s numbers might be equivalent to one season’s worth of regular season production. Both he and Pennock deserve credit for pitching well in the postseason. They clearly weren’t just around for the ride. I’m not sure if it is enough for either to overcome their relatively pedestrian index scores, but it is a point in their favor.

The same is true for both Gomez and Dean. Gomez in particular was dominant in the postseason. Of course, you could say that winning with those particular Yankee teams (arguably better than the 1927 version) is not a huge deal. Still, those teams were collectively great for a reason. It takes a number of very good players to make a team great and Gomez was definitely one of them.

Dean and Faber were also good, but Faber might be known more for the series he missed. He was 11-9 with the 1919 White Sox, but he would go on to win 20 or more games the next two seasons. If he had produced those numbers in 1919 along with Lefty Williams and Eddie Cicotte then it might have been lights out in the World Series. Then again, Dicky Kerr pitched pretty well.

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYTotal
Burleigh Grimes24136
Dizzy Dean05135
Lefty Gomez22126
Herb Pennock03125
Red Faber10223
Waite Hoyt31014

Occasionally, a test reveals something we don’t readily see with the other numbers. Hoyt was never a special pitcher. He was occasionally good and usually solid, but he was never the most valuable pitcher in the league. The others could all say that at least once. However, we should be careful when looking at a table like this. It is easy to get carried away when comparing similar pitchers, but what about the first list we looked at last time.

Grimes and Dean look good until we compare them with Lefty Grove. Grove is not the Hall of Fame standard. That would be a lonely Hall of Fame, but it does make you question why they thought any of these guys were good enough. If you combine Faber’s two awards with decent playoff performance, you can make a case for him. If you look at Grimes here and at his playoff performance, you might be tempted to say he did enough. It’s hard to make that argument with the rest of them.

Hall of Fame Index: Live Ball Era Hall of Famers Part I

As we move to the second half of the pitching list we need to remember the general rules we learned in the first half. The more bats a pitcher can miss the more successful he will ultimately be. Limiting free baserunners is also a huge deal. The final component we saw was keeping the ball in the ballpark. This seems easy enough and yet we still have people preaching about pitching to contact.

Now, of course, contact is unavoidable. 20 strikeouts is still the record in a big league game and while it has been done a few times, it is a very rare occurrence. Heck, 15 strikeouts in one game (for one pitcher) is rare. So, if you can find a way to induce weak contact and on the ground you are on your way to success. Granted, we can’t know all the ins and outs of contact in the Live Ball Era, but we can decipher between groundballs, flyouts, and line drives based on play by play data.

We start with the top six Hall of Famers from the period. There were twice that many, but as you will see, the data splits itself into halves pretty well. Since we are always looking for gaps in data we will always exploit them when we find them. As usual, we will add conventional numbers, playoff numbers, and the BWAR Cy Young points for good measure.

Career Value

Lefty Grove107.088.878.2274.0
Red Ruffing68.956.164.4189.4
Ted Lyons70.754.662.4187.7
Carl Hubbell68.356.561.0185.8
Eppa Rixey55.865.963.0184.7
Dazzy Vance60.061.648.2169.8

I recall the Twitter conversation I had with my friend. He talked about how different things were expected of pitchers back in the Live Ball Era, so comparing them to modern pitchers was foolish. He didn’t use those exact words, but in this case we completely agree. All players must be compared by looking at how they performed in their own generation. How much did they dominate? Grove won nine ERA titles, eight ERA+ titles, and led the league in strikeouts every year for the first seven seasons of his career. No pitcher can match any of those feats individually.

This is where we start splitting hairs. There is a difference between calling someone the greatest and calling them the most dominant. Greatness can’t be measured. Was Roger Clemens greater than Grove? Well, he lasted longer, but even if we ignore the PED issue we have to look at modern medicine, modern physical training, and more advanced coaching techniques. Grove survived largely on a fastball while Clemens was able to mix in an assortment of off-speed offerings as his career progressed.

Add in the specter of expansion to 30 teams, the color barrier, and influx of players from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America (not to mention Southeast Asia) and who know who had it tougher. Debates about the greatest player of all time always come down to issues like that. What would Grove have accomplished if he had pitched in a modern minor league system with access to modern medicine, training, and nutritional information? The world will never know. What we do know is that he dominated his era nearly as much as Clemens dominated his. That’s what we can go on.

Peak Value

Lefty Grove76.762.955.4195.0469.0
Dazzy Vance57.556.343.6157.4327.2
Carl Hubbell57.146.349.6153.0338.8
Red Ruffing52.134.341.0127.4316.8
Eppa Rixey38.740.340.2119.2303.9
Ted Lyons42.037.835.2115.0302.7

The St. Louis Cardinals were the first team to really utilize organized affiliates. Most of the players in those days played for independent leagues that would rival AAA if not more. Grove spent most of his time in the minors with the dominate Baltimore Orioles of the American Association. They made the Yankees look like also-rans in terms of team success. Grove was 111-39 in five minor league seasons. He did not make his debut until his age 25 season. That would be unthinkable today.

I say all that to point out that the index is merely a guide. If he comes up two years sooner than his peak value would be radically different. Similarly, Hubbell did not debut until 25 as well. He didn’t play in affiliate ball until he was 24. Obviously, that would have turned out differently today as well. However, most players back then also pitched (or played) under those conditions. So, if we compare players from the same generation then we end getting a much clearer picture of how well that player performed.

Rixey and Lyons are probably not household names in spite of being in the Hall of Fame. People have undoubtedly heard of Red Ruffing. Was Ruffing a superior pitcher? Well, that’s hard to say, but he certainly won more and more consistently than those other two. That being said, allow me to introduce you to two pitchers.

Pitcher A231.6511194.33.00.6
Pitcher B39.289923.63.70.4

Meet Red Ruffing…and meet Red Ruffing. That’s right, both of these are Ruffing. The first represents his Yankees tenure and the second his tenure with the Red Sox. Was he a better pitcher in New York? There really can be no doubt about that. His ERA+ is vastly superior and he has better DIPS numbers as well. However, the question remains whether he was THAT much better in New York. There is certainly something to be said for a change of scenery and sometimes certain pitching coaches unlock certain things in a player’s performance. All of that is true. What is also true is that the Yankees went to the World Series nearly every season while the Red Sox did not.

Pitching Statistics

Lefty Grove300.6801485.22.70.4
Carl Hubbell253.6221304.21.80.6
Dazzy Vance197.5851256.22.50.4
Red Ruffing273.5481094.13.20.5
Eppa Rixey266.5151152.72.20.2
Ted Lyons260.5311182.32.40.5

Data is a fascinating thing. I am not a mathematician and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express in the past year, but there are universal truths in baseball. When you strikeout more hitters on a regular basis you experience more success. Data disperses differently across time. Grove and Vance would be mediocre with those numbers today. They were dominant in the Live Ball Era. Study the game long enough and you learn a few things. The first is that there are players in every era that seem to innately understand what they need to do strategically to dominate. They may not have stated it in the terms we recognize today, but their games were just patterned to take advantage of inefficiency.

The second thing we learn is that the interaction between pitching and hitting changes over time. Did these pitchers strike out fewer hitters because they didn’t try to strike out hitters or, did they strike out fewer hitters because those hitters were better at making contact? It’s likely a little of both. Over time, hitters have been trained to swing for the fences because they get more bang for their buck. It’s similar to the three-point shot in basketball. As that has happened, contact rates have dropped. 

Certainly, all six have the index scores necessary to justify their enshrinement. However, there are always mitigating factors that can swing some borderline guys (like Rixey and Lyons) one way or another. One of those is charting their performance in playoff competition.

Playoff Statistics

Red Ruffing7-285.22.636.42.80.4
Lefty Grove4-251.11.756.31.10.0
Carl Hubbell4-250.11.795.72.10.5
Eppa Rixey0-
Dazzy Vance0-01.10.0020.36.80.0
Ted Lyons

There are a number of debates that go on with these numbers. The first is between what I like to call “results data” and “process data.” Over a long period of time the two usually meet. In short bursts like above it is anyone’s guess. Grove and Hubbell pitched a similar number of innings, had the same record, and gave up the same number of runs. That’s results data. The fact that Grove struck out more hitters, walked fewer hitters, and gave up fewer home runs is process data. In other words, he should have been considerably better than Hubbell. So, the first debate is whether we even pay attention to process data when looking at playoff performance.

The second question comes in when we start looking at historically great teams. This includes the Yankees of the 1930s and 1940s (not to mention 1950s and early 1960s), the Athletics of the late 1920s and 1930s. So, were Grove and Ruffing great because they were great or did they look great because their team was great? Obviously, Grove was a huge reason for the Athletics success where Ruffing probably benefitted from great hitters and great fielders.

You can take playoff performance at face value or you can look at the factors that surround it. Either way, all of these pitchers (except Lyons) saw at least a slight bump in their reputations due to their playoff performance. Naturally, Vance and Rixey didn’t get much, but they didn’t hurt themselves either.

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Lefty Grove058105
Dazzy Vance13458
Carl Hubbell62248
Eppa Rixey53140
Ted Lyons63033
Red Ruffing33024

Eight Cy Young awards would be insane. For the record, that was more than Roger Clemens or any other pitcher we have profiled so far. It remains to be seen where guys like Walter Johnson will wind up, but so far it looks like Grove dominated his era more than any other pitcher dominated his. We could get cute and ask questions like, “if you had Game 7 of the World Series coming up, who would you go with?” Those are always fascinating questions, but the answer is usually dependent on the time you are talking about.

For my money, Grove was the most dominant pitcher of all-time. No one else won nine ERA titles or combined power pitching with impeccable control. Clemens technically had more BWAR Cy Young points, but he also allegedly got a little help. It’s impossible to parse that out effectively, so we leave it where it is.

Vance’s place is a bit of a surprise, but when you look at the sea of black ink on his baseball-reference page it makes perfect sense. His peak value also helps illustrate the point as well. Usually, things like BWAR Cy points don’t reveal anything new, but simply express it in a different way. All of these guys probably still belong in the Hall of Fame and every test we’ve evaluated shows that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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.


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.

2018 Starters260664.
2018 Bullpen174224.
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

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

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

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

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-

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

Whitey Ford10-8146.02.715.82.10.5
Catfish Hunter9-6132.
Bob Gibson7-281.01.8910.21.90.7
Sandy Koufax4-357.00.959.61.70.3
Warren Spahn4-356.
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.