After a disappointing election two weeks ago when nobody entered the Hall of Miller and Eric, we both looked at the backlog in some depth, and we both looked at 1988’s newcomers with a sense of purpose. Yes, we at the HoME have been pretty cautious about electing anyone into our hallowed e-Halls in recent elections. Not since 1984 when Joe Sewell and Bob Johnson entered have we honored anyone but first-ballot guys. That changed this election, our 28th, when Early Wynn was elected in his 14th time on the ballot. And he’s joined in 1988 by Luis Tiant in his debut ballot.
We have now 124 of the greatest players in the game’s history in the HoME, and we’re still planning on 212, so there are 88 more to elect going forward.
Per our rules, players have to be named on both ballots for induction. Take a look at how we voted in 1988.
Miller Eric 1 Red Faber Luis Tiant 2 Luis Tiant Bobby Bonds 3 Early Wynn Dave Bancroft Early Wynn Willie Davis Billy Herman
The Class of 1988
Luis Tiant: The Cuban-born Tiant came up as a fireballing righty with the Indians in 1963. Over four seasons he won just 45 games but was emerging as one of the game’s stars. Then came the year of the pitcher, 1968, during which Denny McLain won 31 games, Bob Gibson put up a 1.12 ERA, and Luis Tiant had his best season. He led the AL in ERA, pitched four consecutive shutouts, and had a 19-K game. Injuries seemed to end his run as a great pitcher, but El Tiante reinvented himself in Boston, winning 81 games from 1973-1976 and leading the Sox to the 1975 World Series, where he pitched brilliantly (2-0) in a losing effort. Overall, Tiant won only 229 games, but he pitched at an MVP level in 1968 and nearly as well in 1974. He was at an All-Star level four more times, and had another four seasons averaging about 4 WAR per. In terms of overall value, we’re looking at a hurler roughly the equivalent of Don Drysdale or Red Ruffing (but perhaps better on the mound than those two outstanding hitting pitchers). We’re about to enter the era that completely crushed Tiant’s Hall of Fame chances, the voting era where all the 300-game winners just lined up one after the other. He deserved a better fate—so we’ll give it to him. The HoME welcomes Luis Tiant.
Early Wynn: Famous for winning exactly 300 games, Wynn reaches the HoME in his 14th attempt. Yes, it’s been a long time coming, but finally moving on Wynn is a good thing for us. Wynn was a horse, leading the AL in starts on five occasions. And he was a seven-time All-Star who was able to add value at the plate as well as on the mound. By WAR, he’s the best pitcher in the American League from 1943-1977. There’s no way you slice it where that’s not an impressive run. Reasonable people could see Wynn like Tommy John with an MVP-level season added to his resume. And that MVP-level season is significant. Wynn may be a member of the long and low class of pitchers that includes the likes John, Don Sutton, and Jim Kaat. Not just a member though, he may be the leader of that group. There are going to be flaws as we move closer to the in/out line. Wynn’s aren’t so bad.
Roy White: Miller pointed out a place where we may have an issue of park configuration overrating a player’s defense. I ran a couple scenarios and if true, White remains entirely viable and likely to find his way into the HoME, but I think we need to talk more about what this all means.
When we don’t agree on who should get elected, it seems appropriate to explain our solo votes. Those explanations are below.
Red Faber: I’ve recently gone through a complete overhaul of my pitching system to remove the Fangraphs version of WAR (fWAR) entirely, and instead use just the Baseball Reference version (bWAR) for my pitching input. Simply, when there were vast differences between the two, the bWAR number almost always rings true. Further, the fielding dependent pitching numbers at Fangraphs just don’t make sense to me. While I admit this could very easily be my shortcoming rather than theirs, I nevertheless have to make a decision based on what I can understand and what I can explain. When changing from a combination of the two to just bWAR, Faber’s ranking moved from 44 all the way down to 47. Yeah, not exactly a change. He remains quite easily in the voting range.
Bobby Bonds: After looking carefully at questions of balance of era and positions, Bonds emerges a little more for me. I wanted to vote for him last time around, but I didn’t feel confident enough to pull the trigger. Now, I see him as a little better than Willie Keeler and backlogger Harry Hooper. He’s got a fine extended peak/prime despite a pretty short overall career. This is the way it is at the margins, though, you have flawed candidates. Bonds’ flaws aren’t enough to push him into doubt for me, and I’m glad to have a 1970s player on board.
Dave Bancroft: He’s very close to Joe Sewell, and he will likely close out the shortstop position in the sense that other than Hughie Jennings there’s no one below Bancroft in the shortstop backlog that I see as viable, and Jennings played in an era that we’ve overpopulated already. Bancroft is it.
Willie Davis: Davis might or might not close out the centerfield backlog. George Gore is right on his heels, but Gore played in a time that we’ve already covered appropriately. Gore will be a last-second decision, but I’m ready for Davis now. He’s basically the Max Carey of his era, a long-career center fielder with value rippling out of the speed core of his game but still enough bat to stay around a while. Davis isn’t much of a peak candidate, but he’s not a Beckley or O’Rourke kind of fellow either because he’s got enough under the hood to stay above that level of low-wattage/long-life. And as a 1960s/1970s player, it’s good to find more opportunities for temporal balance.
Billy Herman: And here’s a vote for positional balance with a player whose career includes some fringe-MVP years and a long run of solidly above-average play. Herman was, per BBREF, the NL’s best second baseman by a lot over his career and second only to Charlie Gehringer during that time. Extend out five years on either side to 1925-1952, and Herman’s still the best NL keystone man. Basically he’s the NL’s best between the Rajah and Robinson and has enough heft to not make that damning by faint praise.
That’s all for our very simple 1988 election. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.