Today we continue with our pitcher favorites, showing a higher percentage of players I chose this week than any in the series aside from catcher. That’s okay. I think it’s an interesting mix of guys whose cases you’ve heard, guys who are in, and guys whose cases may be more interesting than you originally thought. And for today’s Don Newcombe entry, we get a special guest appearance by Eric!
I hope you haven’t missed any part of this series, but if you have, here they are. Now, onto the pitchers!
Tommy John* (CHEWS+ 88, MAPES+ 99): In some ways, I think of John a bit like Armando Galarraga. John will never be forgotten because of the eponymous surgery. In other words, he hardly needs the Hall of Fame for his legacy. Galarraga will be remembered a whole lot more for his sort of perfect game than Lee Richmond, Len Barker, or Phil Humber, guys who actually threw them. But this post isn’t about legacy. Let’s give John 50% more value in 1974, which is about what he’d have if he didn’t hurt his arm. And for 1975, let’s give him the average of the two years before and two after the surgery. Somewhat surprisingly, that only lifts him seven spots. Frankly, John was a fairly mediocre pitcher at that point in his career. From 1971-1976, he was never worth even 2.5 WAR. His excellent seasons were the three before that span and four of the six after it. John had a wonderful career, will never be forgotten, and may actually get into the Hall one day. There isn’t a reasonable twist that would get him into the HoME though.
Addie Joss (CHEWS+ 128, MAPES+ 122): Coincidentally enough, Joss threw the fourth perfect game in baseball history. He also has the best WHIP in ever. And I think he’s the only MLB player in the Hall of Fame without ten years in the majors. Back in 1977, for reasons seemingly related only to Joss, the Hall passed a special resolution waiving the ten-year requirement. If they were going to do that for anyone, I guess he’d be one of those players. Still, they shouldn’t have. Joss was an outstanding pitcher for a time, but his final year was his worst. Had he not developed meningitis, the productive part of his career might have been over anyway. What I did for Joss was to eliminate the tenth and all future seasons for every pitcher I’ve charted. If we did that, Joss would rank 50th. Other interesting Hall of Famers by that standard would be Roy Oswalt, Dwight Gooden, and possibly Carlos Zambrano. The Hall made a poor decision.
Jim Kaat (CHEWS+ 138, MAPES+ 121): Does anyone else have Kaat and John occupy similar brain space? It’s kind of strange they do for me. When I began paying attention to the game, John was still a good starter. Kaat was a formerly good starter bouncing around the game as a below-replacement-level reliever. I suppose they’re together for me because of their win totals, 283 for Kaat and three more for John. I remember conversations about the Hall suggesting that their totals were “close enough” to 300 that their elections should come in time. Thankfully, we have learned more about the value of a win.
The first thing I want to experiment with for Kaat’s case is dropping the first two years and last seven years of his career when he was below replacement level. Surprisingly, that lifts him only four spots. I’m not sure I want to do much more, but I look at his record, and I see two seasons of 7+ WAR – when he was 35 and 36! Maybe his arm was crushed from pitching over 2000 innings from 1964-1971. He was hurt or hurting in 1972 and 1973, which shouldn’t be surprising. Let’s say he didn’t figure things out when he was 35, but he did so when he was 33, only we couldn’t see it because he was injured. Let’s give him 7 WAR rather than injuries. Doing that, even if we keep those negative seasons at the start and end of his career, vaults him past 12 HoME pitchers. If we convert only 1973 to 7 WAR, he’d still pass five HoMErs. A ranking of 121st doesn’t seem too impressive, but it might be just one great season away from deserving election.
Jimmy Key (CHEWS+ 105, MAPES+ 115): Key makes this list as one of my favorite pitchers ever to watch work. I think of him as the AL’s version of Tom Glavine – only he pitched a generation earlier, and he didn’t get lots of pitches called strikes that should have been called balls. Admittedly, I have absolutely zero support for the last contention, but it’s the way I choose to see Key. This crafty lefty had an up and down career. That happens for pitchers either when they’re not that good and just find it for a bit, or when they’re not so healthy. Key made 21 starts in 1988, 27 in 1990, and 5 in 1995. As we look at the seasons before those, he was great, if over worked in 1987; he was blah in 1989; and he was very good in 1994. Let’s repeat the 1987 and 1994 seasons the next year, and let’s give him his 1991 season in 1990. If we did those three things, he’d pass ten HoMErs. In other words, if he were healthy, Key may be an easy call. Perhaps you think my manipulation of his 1990 season is inappropriate, which I kinda think. Let’s leave that one alone. He’d still pass eight HoME pitchers. And if we only have him repeat his outstanding 1987 season in 1988, he’d pass five HoME-level pitchers. Were he completely healthy in 1988, it’s quite likely Jimmy Key would be in the HoME.
Mark Langston (CHEWS+ 83, MAPES+ 98): Earlier in our planning process, Eric was a big fan of Langston’s. While he has since pulled back from his previous support, he still likes Langston, and chances are greater than zero the hard-throwing lefty finds his way into the HoME one day. To find a bit of value for Langston, we can look to his injury-riddled sophomore season and the mediocre one that followed. Langston was great as a rookie but slumped badly in 1985 and didn’t rebound as a star until 1987. If we repeat his rookie campaign the next two years, he’d pass eight HoMErs. If we did it for just one year, he’d still pass six. That’s how close some of these players are and how closely we have to look at players to determine those who most deserve induction.
Sam Leever* (CHEWS+ 211, MAPES+ 161): The Pirate teams of about 110 years ago had some interesting staffs. In 1910, they had Leever, Babe Adams, and Deacon Philippe. The year before and going back to 1906, those three were joined by Vic Willis. Good stuff! They finished second or third every year except for 1909 when they beat the Tigers in seven games to win their first World Series. Leever was about done in 1909 and didn’t pitch in the World Series. During the more impressive part of his career, he was up and down, suggesting to me there were some injury woes. Looking at his BBREF page, it would appear the easiest place to find value for him would be early in his time in Pittsburgh, as he didn’t pitch in the bigs until he was 26, and he didn’t have a real job until he was 27. However, he didn’t begin pitching professionally until two years before that, so there’s no real value to be had there. Nor is there value at the end; he was done when he was done. Still, if he matured early and made it right to the majors, he’d have a nice shot at the HoME. If we repeat his first full year twice right before it, he’d pass seven HoME pitchers. If he only did it once, he’d still be short.
Bob Lemon (CHEWS+ 112, MAPES+ 123): An outstanding hitter with 10.4 career WAR at the dish, Lemon is one of the worst pitchers in the Hall when it comes to just pitching. While less than great, he was incredibly solid and incredibly healthy, five times leading the AL in batters faced and complete games, four times leading in innings, and three times leading in starts. Lemon supporters might point to his military service from 1943-1945 as a feather in his cap, but, while admirable, it likely shouldn’t add to his cause since my numbers say he was worth less than one win over the next three years combined. At age 35 in 1956, Lemon was excellent. But he was never good again, developing bone chips in his elbow late in 1957. Let’s say, however, that the bone chips developed earlier in the year. If we drop him 2 WAR per year for his last two, he moves all the way up to #100 on my list, clearly not good enough to get him in though.
Mickey Lolich (CHEWS+ 143, MAPES+ 124): Anyone who strikes out 300+ in a season, as Lolich did in 1971 and only 16 other pitchers have ever done since the mound moved, is just fine by me. Likely by good fortune rather than plan, the Tigers used Lolich less than awfully for a young pitcher. Though he threw 232 innings when he was 23, he never reached 250 until he was 28. Then we went crazy, topping out at 376 innings in his big K season of 1971. His last good year was at 34, and then he was shipped to the Mets. It seems like Lolich pitched hurt in 1966. If we give him the average of ’66 and ’68 in that year, he does jump up to #111, but there’s no other value we can easily find. A solid member of the Hall of Very Good.
Jack Morris* (CHEWS+ 146, MAPES+ 179): I don’t know which kind friend of mine recommended Morris, but I thank you. (The truth is he was going to appear here anyway). Last year, I took a bite out of the guy erroneously called the pitcher of the 80s. Hint, he wasn’t. And it’s not even close.
Morris was good though. He was a star from 1985-1987. But even in his best 3-year run, where he had three of his four best seasons by pitching WAR, he was only the game’s 10th best pitcher. That’s right, when Morris was at his three-year best, there were still nine guys better. That list includes Teddy Higuera, Bob Welch, and Charlie Leibrandt. No, not one of those pitchers is as good as Morris for his career, but their superior rankings on his list do make clear that Morris was never great. If we add a win to each of the first 14 years of his career, he’s still shy of the lowest ranked HoME starter by MAPES+. In case you’re wondering – and I know you are – I prefer Morris to both Harold Baines and Omar Vizquel.
Jamie Moyer (CHEWS+ 118, MAPES+ 155): Whenever I write about Moyer, I feel compelled to mention that I was psyched when the Red Sox shipped him to Seattle for Darren Bragg at the 1996 deadline. Bragg produced 7.2 WAR the rest of his career, Moyer a slightly better 38.9. Oops! In 1988, Moyer was 25 and posted 3.12 WAR by my numbers. For the next four years, he was either bad or injured. Usually both. If we substitute his 1988 for 1989-1992, he moves all the way up to 113, still shy of the HoME, but pretty impressive.
Joe Nathan (CHEWS+ 151, MAPES+ 204): As I’ve recently mentioned elsewhere, I consider Nathan to be the fourth best reliever ever, training only Rivera, Gossage, and Wilhelm. We’re happy with about 2.5 relievers in the HoME right now (Rivera, Gossage, and half of Eckersley). If we added another, it would almost certainly be Wilhelm. If it were two, I think it would be Nathan, as both Eric and I have him about a dozen and a half positions in front of Hoffman. When the Giants shifted Nathan to the pen, he was 28. Had he been healthy and effective for the four years prior, I am confident he’d still be far enough behind Gossage that there’d be no discussion needed. However, it’s possible those four years might have been enough to get him past Wilhelm and into my consideration set every year. Relievers, particularly closers, are a different beast when evaluating for the HoME. I always want to consider the top guy, just in case we decide we’re one closer shy.
Dave McNally* (CHEWS+ unranked, MAPES+ 398): For his first six years in Baltimore, McNally was just another guy, putting up only a shade over 0.7 pitching WAR each year. Then something happened in 1968, the same year Mark Belanger replaced Luis Aparicio full time. Just saying. The less cynical reporter might note that he found his slider in 1968, at least according to SABR biographer Mark Armour. Still, 1968 was his only excellent year. Reasonable comps are guys like Scott Erickson and Ramon Martinez. Adding two wins to each season of his career, he’s still easily short of the HoME, though at that point he’d be in league with Bob Lemon and Mickey Lolich.
Don Newcombe* (CHEWS+ 189, MAPES+ 188): Newk won the Rookie of the Year in 1949, finished eighth in the MVP voting, and made the All-Star team. He would’ve earned Cy Young votes if the award was, uh, being awarded. Newcombe picked up MVP support in three of his next four seasons. Then he went nutty on the league in 1956: 27-7, 131 ERA+, league-leading WHIP plus the Cy Young and the MVP. He never, ever earned another award vote. What happened? Well, he drank, and that was an issue. He had only two more good seasons.
Another thing about Newk is that he hit like a position player. He was probably the best hitting pitcher post-Wes Ferrell. If you’re keeping score at home, you’ll notice the chronological math above doesn’t add up. That’s because Newcombe spent 1952 and 1953 playing home games in Uncle Sam’s ball yard. His MLB record puts him in company with guys like Andy Messersmith and John Tudor. So what’s keeping him out of the HoME is all the innings he missed in Korea, right? Not exactly. More like the ones he missed in the Negro Leagues. Newcombe started pitching professionally in 1944 at age 18. The Dodgers plucked him up, and at age 20 and 21, he dominated the New England League. Then he pitched just about as well against the International League in 1948. Then he spent the first month of 1949 back in Montreal. You want Newcombe in your Hall of Fame? All you got to do is give him part of 1946 and all of 1947, 1948, and 1949 in the big leagues at his MLE rate of production.
Roy Oswalt* (CHEWS+ 81, MAPES+ 84): Make no mistake, Roy Oswalt was a great pitcher. In his rookie year of 2001, he made just 20 starts and was still worth 4.7 pitching WAR. The next year, that number jumped to 7.0. And during his 2005-2007 peak, he was the game’s best pitcher aside from Johan Santana. He dropped off after age 29, but he was excellent again at 32, posting 6.0 pitching WAR. He dropped back the next year, and he was done by the time he hit 34. It was back issues at first, and maybe it was back issues for the rest of his time in the majors. If after that 2010 season he dropped just one win per year, he’d be so easily in the HoME, 59th in history. If he dropped two wins per year, he’d be he’d pass four HoME pitchers. Oh, and he’s ahead of five HoME pitchers now! We could elect him tomorrow, and we might just if our rules allowed us to kick guys out of the HoME. As it is, his problem is Andy Pettitte. Eric and I both prefer the ex-Yankee. Oswalt has a shot someday, but it’s going to take some aggressive election action by the Hall so we have spots to fill.
The last installment of pitchers publishes in a week. See you then!
Man, it feels good to be kinda, sorta back doing this, at least for a little while. On Wednesday we updated the Mount Rushmores in the National League. Today we’ll do the same in the Junior Circuit.
That’s it for your 2018 Rushmore update. In the next few weeks we’re going to update you on the progress (or lack thereof) of active players on their journeys to the HoME.
Back when we started this project, or maybe even before that, Eric and I decided that we weren’t going to give extra credit for postseason play since entry into the playoffs has more to do with someone’s teammates than with the player himself. I continue to support that decision, though it’s one with which I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% comfortable. Based on our systems and based on Ford’s usage, I’m no longer confident Ford belongs in the HoME. Ford has six rings with the Yankees. How many of those six titles would New York have won without him? Let’s take things one season at a time.
Ford was a rookie in 1950 when his Yankees beat the Tigers by only three games. Of course, he was worth only 2.5 WAR that season, so they’d still have played in October without him. Ford started Game 4, and he won. The Yankees swept. I’m pretty sure Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds, or Eddie Lopat could have won one more game. I believe the Yankees would have won the 1950 World Series without Ford.
After two years in the military, Ford’s next ring came in his next campaign, 1953, when he was worth 3.3 WAR. Since the Bombers won the AL pennant by ten games, making it to the World Series wasn’t at issue. Again, Ford started the fourth game, behind Johnny Sain, Eddie Lopat, and Vic Raschi. He got through only one inning of that game, helping the Dodgers tie the Series at two games each. The Yankees won two games later. Yeah, they could have won in ’53 without Ford.
In 1956, the Yankees won the pennant by 11 games. Again, they could have made it to the World Series without Ford. This time, however, the Dodgers took the Yankees the distance. Ford got the start in the opener. Again, he was hit hard. This time he allowed five runs in three innings to take the loss. He was back for Game 3, and he was very good, going all the way in a 5-3 win. But that was it for Ford. Tom Sturdivant started Game 4, which Ford couldn’t have been ready for. But he might have been ready the next day and certainly would have been ready in Game 6 or 7. However, his Yankees went with Don Larsen, Bob Turley, and Johnny Kucks. You might remember Larsen’s perfect game. Turley didn’t allow a run through his first nine innings, but he did in the 10th to take the loss. And then Kucks, the guy who relieved Whitey in the opener, pitched a shutout in Game 7. I believe they would have won without Ford in 1956 too.
Moving on to 1958, it was another double digit AL title for the Yankees. Ford wasn’t needed during the regular season. But this World Series again went seven games. Let’s see how our man did. He got the call in the opener against Warren Spahn, and he allowed three runs in seven innings. Spahn allowed the same number of runs, but he did so in ten innings. The Yanks were down one game to none. Down two games to one, Ford was up against Spahn again needing a win. Again, he gave up three runs in seven innings. Spahn threw a shutout. The Yankees had their backs up against the wall. On short rest, Ford again opposed Spahn in Game 6. While Spahn took the loss, Ford wasn’t the reason. He was lifted after recording only four outs, one on a sacrifice bunt, while facing ten batters and leaving the game with the bases loaded. The Yankees won the 1958 World Series in spite of Ford, certainly not because of him.
Ford was the MVP of the 1961 World Series. Surely we’re going to credit him on this one. The juggernaut Yankees won by a relatively narrow eight games. Of course, Ford was worth a tad over 4 wins that year, so they were going to the World Series without him. He was great in two starts, allowing no runs over 14 innings while giving up just six hits and one walk. To be fair though, New York won in five games, scoring 27 runs in those five contests. Ford gets a ton of credit for his shutout in the opener, but it was Jim Coates who pitched four shutout innings in relief of Ford in Game 4. They won that game 7-0, so I don’t think they really needed Ford that day. So here’s where we stand: The Yankees won four games to one. Let’s say Ford wasn’t on the team and they couldn’t win that first game without him. They’d be up 3-2. At that point, they’d need Ralph Terry or Bill Stafford to close things out in one of the last two games. On the season, Terry beat Ford in ERA+, and Stafford crushed him. Plus, they had the often used and excellent Luis Arroyo in the pen. Oh, and they were the 1961 Yankees with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, a great Elston Howard, and a very good Yogi Berra and Bill Skowron. They would have one one of those two games, I think. They would have won the 1961 World Series without Ford.
Ford’s final Series win came in 1962. The Yankees won the pennant by just five games, and Ford was worth 5.0 WAR. The way WAR works, it would seem we’re looking at a tie for the pennant with the Twins. It’s quite possible we’d have been looking at additional innings from Jim Bouton and Rollie Sheldon had Ford been out. Together, they were worth 1.0 WAR. Would they have made up all of the innings Ford pitched? Probably not, and it’s possible the other innings wouldn’t have gone to the right place. Still, I would predict another pennant for the Yankees had Ford not pitched an inning that year. In the World Series, the Yankees beat the Giants in a seven game classic. Ford pitched in games 1, 4, and 6, just as was the norm for aces at that time. He won Game 1, got a no-decision in a Game 4 Yankee win, and lost Game 6. There’s enough here for me to say it would have been really hard on the Yankees without Ford. I think they may very well have lost the 1962 World Series had Ford not been on the team.
So what does this tell me? Well, let me turn that question around. What does it tell you? Leave a note in the comments.
#10 Johnny Antonelli: In a virtual tie with Bob Rush for this position at 40% of our decade leader, I give the edge to Antonelli because of his performance in the 1954 World Series, winning Game 2 and saving Game 4 as the Giants swept and won their last title for more than half a century. With 126 wins and two seasons of 20+, he had a fine career. To give you an idea of what we’re talking about, I rank him #209, right around John Lackey, Milt Pappas, and Johnny Sain.
#9 Murry Dickson: Worth approaching 44% of our decade leader, Dickson actually led the league in losses three years in a row during this decade, one of which he was an All-Star and one of which he finished 13th in the MVP voting. He was a nice pitcher overall, finishing with 2.8 to 5.0 pitching WAR ten times in his career. The most significant game he pitched had to be Game 7 of the 1946 World Series. He got the start for the Cardinals and threw seven strong innings, leading 3-1 heading into the 8th before it seemed like it was going to fall apart. The Sox led the inning with a single and a double before Dickson was replaced by Harry Brecheen. The Cat didn’t get out of the jam, and the Sox tied it before Pesky held the ball in the bottom of the inning (or he didn’t) to help the Cards to the title.
#8 Don Newcombe: The fourth black player to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers was also the fourth in NL history and ninth ever. Newcombe was a nice pitcher who helped Brooklyn to three World Series, but he wasn’t very good once he got there. Overall, he started five games and posted an 0-4 record with an 8.59 ERA over 22 innings. He won the MVP and Cy in 1956 despite only 4.5 pitching WAR. An excellent hitter, he added 0.8 WAR at the plate that year, not a great showing for him. If you’re wondering why he won the awards, look no further than the 27-7 record. Early Wynn or Herb Score might have been a better choice for the Cy. I’d take Willie Mays, Duke Snider, or Hank Aaron for MVP.
#7 Ned Garver: Garver was a much better pitcher than his 129-157 career record would suggest. A couple of ways to look at this are the neutralized pitching numbers at BBREF and my career pitcher rankings. BBREF neutralizes stats to look at what might happen in a neutral environment, which they say is a 100 park factor, a 162-game season, 90% of runs earned, and 688 runs per team. Garver’s record would have been 152-135 in that neutralized world. My numbers rank him as the 158th best pitcher ever, two spots ahead of Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez. By the way, Gomez posted a record of 189-102. Neutralized it would have been 168-124, not a whole lot better than Garver’s. Overall, we have a pitcher with almost 48% of our leader’s value for the decade.
#6 Bob Lemon: Someone over at Baseball Prospectus used to call Gregg Zaun the practically perfect backup catcher. I think of Lemon as the practically perfect #2 starter. He averaged 4.0 pitching WAR per year from 1948-1956. Add some excellent hitting, and we’re looking at about 5.1 WAR per year for nine years. But for the rest of his career, I give him only 2.67 adjusted WAR. He’s Kenny Rogers, not a Hall of Famer. I find it interesting that Lemon managed three full seasons plus stints six other times. Anyway, at 52% of our decade leader, he’s fifth highest, but he falls to sixth because of our next guy.
#5 Whitey Ford: Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Well, given their standards, he should. Should he be in the HoME? I really don’t know given that we don’t really give extra credit for playoff performance. But I will give extra credit here. And Ford was excellent in Yankee losses in 1955, 1957, and 1960. As a result, Ford jumps over Garver and Lemon into the fifth slot despite just 47% of our leader’s total. In the period we’re considering, Ford started 19 games and posted a 10-5 record in 128.2 World Series innings.
#4 Early Wynn: Wynn, a knuckleballer with 57.8% of the value of our decade leader, is one of those four-decade pitchers who always intrigue me. In 1962, at age-42, had a 7-15 record, a 4.46 ERA, an ERA+ of 88, and just 0.3 pitching WAR. Not surprisingly, the White Sox released him, and the 299 game winner didn’t have a job to open the next season. David Fleitz writes in Wynn’s SABR Bio that the righty received several one-day contract offers. He held out for a one-year deal, which he got from the Indians. He won his fifth start for number 300 and was then relegated to the bullpen for the rest of the season, where he pitched quite well before retiring.
#3 Billy Pierce: Pierce doesn’t have a lot of Black Ink, but he does have a career pitching triple crown. The seven-time All-Star was worth 57.7% of the decade leader, just a shade behind Wynn, but I moved him up because a larger percentage of his value was between 1950 and 1959 and because his postseason work, limited as it was, was better. Pierce is a historically underrated pitcher, the best in the AL for the 20 seasons from 1945-1964 by WAR. Overall, I think of him a lot like Cliff Lee, Ron Guidry, or Bob Lemon with hitting included. Pierce is one of those guys about whom our perception might have been different had just one batter gone differently. With two outs in the ninth inning of a June 27, 1958 game, Senators pinch hitter Ed Fitz Gerald came to the plate against Pierce and the White Sox. He doubled, and Pierce lost his perfect game. The next batter, Albie Pearson, was Pierce’s ninth strikeout victim.
#2 Robin Roberts: For whatever reason, I’ve long confused Roberts with Jim Bunning. Bunning was excellent; Roberts one of the 20ish best pitchers ever. I shouldn’t confuse them. On the decade, we’re looking at 86% of the leader’s value. He saw his first Hall of Fame ballot at a time I would have ranked him as the ninth best pitcher ever. Warren Spahn was in his first season on the ballot and made it. Roberts didn’t, garnering fewer votes than Gil Hodges. The next year Mickey Mantle entered the fray, making it in along with Whitey Ford on his second try. Roberts moved from 56% to 61%. Ralph Kiner jumped over Roberts the next year to make it on his 13th try, but Roberts was set up for 1976 election with 72.7%. Yeah, he flew in with almost 87%. Remember, we’re talking about perhaps the ninth best pitcher ever at that time, and it took him four tries. The BBWAA struggles getting things right. That’s nothing new.
#1 Warren Spahn: Even though I think pitcher wins matter almost not at all today, they were once somewhat telling. And Spahn won 20+ a dozen times, once leading the league five straight years. He also had streaks of seven straight years leading in complete games and four straight leading in strikeouts. One of the coolest games he ever pitched – one of the coolest games anyone ever pitched – occurred on July 2, 1963 when Spahn was 42 years old. You’ve heard of the game, I suspect. Spahn matched up against Juan Marichal, the guy ready to take Spahn’s title as the best pitcher in the National League. They both got through three innings without allowing a run. Then six, and nine, and twelve, and fifteen. Marichal got through the 16th, but with one out in the bottom of the inning Willie Mays took Spahn deep to give the Giants a 1-0 victory. Based on my numbers, Spahn put up 63.02 adjusted WAR from 1940-1949 compared to 63.05 for Roberts. Spahn gets the nod because of surrounding seasons. I’m good with that.
In a week, we’ll get to Sandy Koufax and the 1960s. Ooh, there’s gonna be some disappointed Koufax fans.
When we started the Hall of Miller and Eric in 2013, I had some favorite players. Since we created it and I studied and learned, other players jumped to the fore. One of those players, a guy who I suggested might be the most underrated player ever, is Rick Reuschel. He’s the second and final 1970s pitcher in our “Fixing the Hall” series. And he was even better than last week’s entry, Luis Tiant.
The tubby righty broke in with the 1972 Chicago Cubs. In his nine and a half years there, he was always good and occasionally great. From 1977-1981, he was baseball’s second best pitcher. And in the second half of ’81, the Cubs sent Reuschel to the Yankees for what turned into nothing. He soon suffered a torn rotator cuff and missed most of the next two seasons. When he came back, it was again with the Cubs, and he was no good, adding just 0.1 pitching WAR to his career total in two years. At that point Reuschel was 36 and seemingly done. But he signed with the Pirates in the off-season, and then turned in his second best career performance for Pittsburgh in 1985. He spent almost two more years there before a 1987 trade to the Giants. Big Daddy lasted four more years on the west coast before hanging ‘em up at age 42.
He made four All-Star teams, garnered Cy Young support four times, and won three Gold Gloves. He only 20 games once though, and you know what his career total of 214 means. It means Hall voters were going to ignore him. They did.
It’s the wins. It’s clearly the wins. His single season highs are 20, 19, 18, 17, 14. His career total is just 214. Such guys don’t get into the Hall unless they were great closers for three years.
Reuschel also had some difficulties like Tiant, in that his competition included Seaver, Carlton, Ryan, Palmer, and the like. Unlike Tiant, Reuschel was near the best pitcher in baseball for a spell. For the decade from his rookie year until his rotator cuff injury, only five pitchers were better. If we lop off the rookie campaign, it’s only three pitchers.
Reuschel was treated awfully by some very bad voters in 1997. Just two people voted for him. That’s 29 fewer than Ron Guidry, 32 fewer and Mickey Lolich, 95 fewer than Tommy John, 105 fewer than Jim Kaat, and 344 fewer than Don Sutton, all of whom were inferior pitchers.
By my numbers, Reuschel is a ton like Don Drysdale. Check out my converted year-by-year numbers. Drysdale is better by a shade every year from years 2-12, but Reuschel’s best was better, and he added 5.3 WAR after his best dozen years, while Drysdale added just 1.6.
Reuschel Drysdale =================== 9.6 8.4 6.4 7.1 5.9 6.3 5.6 6.0 5.4 5.9 5.4 5.7 5.4 5.6 4.2 4.9 3.9 4.7 3.6 4.4 3.5 3.7 3.1 3.4 3.0 1.9 2.8 -0.3
Maybe the Drysdale comparison isn’t for you. Let’s look at Jim Bunning. Reuschel again has the top season, while Bunning has a nice edge from 2-5. The next three years are pretty equal. After that, however, Bunning totals only 6.6 more for his career, and Reuschel puts up 22.5
Reuschel Bunning =================== 9.6 8.9 6.4 8.4 5.9 8.0 5.6 7.0 5.4 6.5 5.4 5.2 5.4 5.0 4.2 4.0 3.9 3.0 3.6 2.9 3.5 2.6 3.1 1.4 3.0 1.0 2.8 0.3 1.3 -1.0 0.8 -1.7 0.3 -2.0 0.3 -0.1
It’s a lot easier to list the Hall of Fame pitchers better than Reuschel. I believe there are only 28 of them. And there are 68 Hall of Fame pitchers. Bob Lemon and Dizzy Dean and Early Wynn and even Don Drysdale rank lower than he does on my list.
Throughout this series, I’ve dumped a Hall of Famer every time, and this time is no exception. Today, we dump 1927 Yankee star, Waite Hoyt. Let’s see how Hoyt stacks up to Reuschel.
Reuschel Hoyt ============================== Innings 3548.1 3762.1 Wins 214 237 Strikeouts 2015 1206 Shutouts 26 26 Everything here is equal except the strikeouts, and that's an era thing. ============================================================================== ERA 3.37 3.59 K/BB 2.16 1.20 ERA+ 114 112 FIP 3.22 3.76 Reuschel begins to pull away here. ============================================================================== RA9opp 4.13 4.83 So Hoyt's opponents scored way more runs than Reuschel's. ============================================================================== RA9def -0.18 0.06 On the other hand, Hoyt pitched in front of superior defenses. ============================================================================== Park Factor 104.9 98.5 Over 100 is harder than average; under easier. Hoyt had it far easier. ============================================================================== PtchW 19.4 18.8 This is adjusted pitching wins, the number of wins above average contributed. ============================================================================== WPA 14.8 0.5 This is Win Probability Added, which kind of speaks for itself. ============================================================================== RE24 159.7 -24.0 This is Base-Out Runs Saved. Given the bases occupied, this number shows the number of runs the pitcher saved on the resulting play. Average is 0.0. Hoyt is below average. ============================================================================== Actual WAR 70.0 51.8 My WAR 70.5 52.9 (Extra credit given for playoff pitching) My best 5 WAR 33.0 26.8 My best 7 WAR 43.9 34.8 My best 10 WAR 55.6 44.1 My best 15 WAR 69.4 51.7 MAPES P Rank 35 122 (My personal ranking system) Reuschel over Hoyt. It would make the Hall better.
So as we conclude this series and look back, we see nine players from the 1970s and 1980s who belong in the Hall but aren’t in. Turning back the clock, each of our nine players was active from 1977-1981. Amazingly, there are six additional HoMErs who played those exact seasons – Willie Randloph, Reggie Smith, Sal Bando, Graig Nettles, Bobby Bonds, and Darrell Evans – who have been ignored by the Hall but who should be in to give their era fair Cooperstown representation.
Because they came so close but didn’t pull through last season, the 1948 and 1920 champs have the longest current drought in the game. Known as the Blues in 1901, the Bronchos in 1902, and the Naps from 1903 through 1914, the Indians are the only team, I believe, whose Rushmore all played the same position. And much to my surprise, they’re the third best team in AL history in winning percentage.
By WAR, the greatest Indian ever is Nap Lajoie. However, he played parts of eight years with AL and NL Philadelphia clubs. Second on the Indian list is Red Sox great Tris Speaker. And fourth is another who played for the Red Sox, Lou Boudreau. Stan Coveleski is fifth on the Indian list, but he played for the A’s, Sens, and Yanks. Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome also put up great numbers while in Cleveland, but they both played everywhere. Earl Averill held on with the Tigers and Braves, and Joe Sewell was a Yankee for three years.
Al Rosen is the best hitter in Indian history never to play elsewhere, posting 32.6 WAR over seven full seasons before retiring because of issues with his back and legs. He’s 23rd in Indian history in WAR, but that’s not enough. There were four Cleveland pitchers who topped him, making them the only team without a hitter on their Rushmore.
Bob Feller: Rapid Robert was a hit after joining the Indians at age 17 in 1936. If we replace the three seasons and the one partial season he missed due to WWII with the average of the two years before and the two full years after he left, he moves from 63.6 WAR to an insane 84.4 WAR. That would move him from a tie for 144th with Richie Ashburn and Billy Williams to 53rd, just ahead of Pedro Martinez and Ken Griffey. I’m not saying this would have happened, just giving an idea about what might have been.
Bob Lemon: With 48.8 WAR, Lemon is the sixth best Indian ever. Of course, less than 77% of Lemon’s value was on the mound. He was truly an excellent hitter, adding 0.6 WAR to 1.9 WAR every year from 1947-1956 at the plate. From 1948-1950 he averaged six homers and 22 ribbies with a .334 OBP. With just pitching value, there are only two years when he threw like an All-Star. He’s in the Hall, which is quite a surprise given that Hall voters must look at pitcher offense less than I do, and Lemon is only 117th all-time among pitchers, right between Frank Viola and Ron Guidry.
Mel Harder: Eleventh on the all-time Indian WAR chart, Harder was a better pitcher than Lemon, putting up 47.9 WAR on the mound but giving back 4.2 at the dish, for 43.7 total WAR. During his 1932-1935 peak, he trailed only Carl Hubbell and Dizzy Dean in WAR among hurlers. Expanding things to 1939, and only Lefty Grove also gets past him. We’re looking at a star here.
Addie Joss: With similar star power to Harder, Joss nevertheless is in the Hall. Tied with him on the Indian WAR list with 43.7, Joss and his 160 wins are in the Hall due to a 1.89 career ERA. Even though he played only nine seasons, the 1977 Board of Directors passes a special resolution to waive the ten-year rule for him. There was no good reason for that decision. BBREF neutralizes Joss’ career ERA at 2.88, still a fine number, but c’mon. Imagine 170 wins and a 2.88 ERA in the last fifty years. Such a pitcher would have no chance at the Hall. If he pitched in the run environment of, say, 2004, his ERA would be 3.75. Kevin Brown pitched around that time. He finished with 211 wins and a 3.28 ERA, and he hasn’t sniffed the inside of Cooperstown.
My Indian Rushmore
Nap Lajoie: Yes, he had a significant enough career with the A’s, but he’s Cleveland’s all-time leader in WAR, and he had nine of his ten best years by WAR with the Indians.
Lou Boudreau: I’m not going to hold his short period of time in Boston against him. Speaker played in Boston too, but he had quite a significant career there. Each of Boudreau’s ten best seasons were with Cleveland.
Kenny Lofton: I’m skipping a couple of guys on Cleveland’s all-time WAR list to get to him, namely Stan Coveleski and Bob Lemon. My favorite Lofton memory is how he ran the bases like a brilliant madman in the 1995 playoffs, tripling twice and stealing 11 bases in the ALCS and WS.
Tune in next week for a look at the Cincinnati Reds.
Do you remember that book Don’t Sweat the Small stuff…? Of course you do. It was everywhere. What you may not remember was the subtitle, what came after the ellipsis – and it’s all small stuff. I didn’t believe it then, I read the book, and I don’t believe it now. Sure, we shouldn’t get all riled up over Tim Raines, but when innocent people get shot in the streets, maybe we should. I think if we don’t, we can’t bring about meaningful change.
So people who care about the Hall of Fame get all in a huff about Tim Raines being over-qualified and either taking a decade to make it to the Hall or maybe to fall off the ballot and not being heard from again until his Era Committee gets to review his case. Okay, okay. But even if we think Hall voting is a big deal, not all of it is.
Last week when the BBWAA ballot was announced, one name was conspicuous by its absence. I don’t mean Aaron Rowand, Julio Lugo, or Danys Baez. I’m talking about Javier Vazquez. Now this is a guy who doesn’t deserve to go to the Hall of Fame. He doesn’t deserve a single vote. And I’m of the opinion the nearly $100 million he made playing baseball is enough of a reward for his work in the game. I’m not shedding a tear because Vazquez was left off the ballot. But it has gotten me to think what if. What if things were just a little different? Forget just getting onto the ballot, I’m interested in getting Vazquez into the Hall of Fame.
We know from the difficulties of Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, and so many more that wins win the day when it comes to the Hall voters, and at just 165, Vazquez didn’t have enough of those. Among starters, he beats only Addie Joss and Dizzy Dean. Oh, and he’s tied with Sandy Koufax.
In terms of WAR and WAR-related stuff, Vazquez is 138th among pitchers by JAWS and 136th in career WAR. That’s pretty decent, and it’s ahead of Hall of Famer starters Addie Joss, Jack Chesbro, Herb Pennock, Catfish Hunter, Lefty Gomez, Rube Marquard, and Jesse Haines on the career level. So if he were put in the Hall today, he wouldn’t be among the bottom 10% of starting pitchers enshrined for their work in MLB. To be honest though, that says a lot more about the mistakes of the Hall than it does Vazquez.
By the way, if you’re a fan of the way WAR is calculated at Fangraphs, using fielding independent pitching statistics, you think Vazquez is far, far closer to the Hall. He ranks 71st among all pitchers in history by their measure.
Can we find him some extra wins? Some extra WAR? The last year Vazquez was in the bigs was 2011. He was just 34. To look for more of what gets a pitcher into the Hall, what I’m going to do is compare him by IP and ERA+ to pitchers since WWII. There are 42 retired pitchers within 100 innings and 5 points in ERA+ of Vazquez during seasons from age 31-34. A bit to my surprise, Vazquez ranked in the top half of this group in wins over those four seasons. And he’s eighth in WAR among the group. To make comparisons, I looked at the careers of those 42 pitchers from age-35 on, when Vazquez was retired, to get a sense of where he might have ended up had he hung around.
Those 42 pitchers averaged 2.6 more seasons, 26 more wins, and 3.4 more WAR. The extra 26 wins would get him past Koufax, but the only other Hall of Famer he’d lap is lefty Gomez. WAR looks a little better though. Adding 3.4 more, he moves from 136th on the list to 117th. That means Bob Lemon and Sandy Koufax also fall behind him.
But let’s say he’s not merely the average of these pitchers. He was in the top 20% in WAR among that group in the previous four seasons, so let’s put him eighth in both wins and WAR in the pretend rest of his career. If that’s where he ranked, he’d add 46 more wins and 7.3 more WAR.
With those wins, he’d sit at 211, into the top-100 in history. Rube Waddell, Ed Walsh, Dazzy Vance, Dennis Eckersley, Jack Chesbro, Rube Marquard, Hal Newhouser, Bob Lemon, Don Drysdale, and Jesse Haines would have fewer. He’d rank 50th in wins just looking at Hall of Fame pitchers. That’ not terrible.
As for WAR, he’d be up to 53.3. That would put him into a tie with Waite Hoyt for 50th among Hall of Famers in that category. Being ahead of 14 Hall starters in WAR is nothing to sneeze at. It would make him a reasonable candidate.
I don’t know what the standard is for getting on the Hall of Fame ballot beyond playing for ten years. And I don’t really care to learn it. The argument about whether or not a guy belongs on the ballot is small stuff indeed. On the other hand, had Vazquez chosen to play a few more seasons, and had he played relative to similar players like he had in the previous four seasons, a real Hall of Fame case could have been made for him. Sometimes it’s that close.
As we continue with our player/manager project today, we review candidates 16-40. If you’ve missed them, check out the primer, where I narrow the list, and next post, where review candidates 41-80. In search of the best combination player and manager ever, we’re going to review 25 guys today. Some were good to great players. Others were good to great managers. However, none were excellent both on the field and in the dugout. So without further ado, here are the next 25 managers on our list.
#40 Lou Piniella (MAPES: 13; ZIMMER: 50; Player Manager Score: 20)
Piniella is the best manager we’ve seen so far on this list who had a playing career of at least 10 MAPES points. He was AL Rookie of the year in 1969, an AL All-Star in 1972, and the owner of two World Series rings. He managed the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Devil Rays, and Cubs to 1835 wins, good for fourteenth in history. The highlight of his run had to be the 1990 World Series upset of the A’s by his Reds. He also made the playoffs four times in Seattle and twice more in Chicago. And he won three Manager of the Year Awards.
#39 Hank Bauer (MAPES: 25; ZIMMER: 18; Player Manager Score: 21)
Bauer shows more balance than most everyone who has come before him. He was a very solid player and a very solid manager, but great at neither. Bauer played almost his entire career with the Yankees, winning seven rings. That’s most of the reason we think he was better than he really was. He made three All-Star teams and has three seasons of at least 4 WAR, but he wasn’t much to talk about otherwise. His main managerial success came in 1966 when he led the Orioles to the World Series title. Frank Robinson’s triple crown that year didn’t hurt, and the O’s plummeted to 7th place in 1967. Overall, Bauer managed just four full seasons and won 594 games. Still, this overall placing is impressive.
#38 Jimmy Collins (MAPES: 51; ZIMMER: 13; Player Manager Score: 21)
Collins is one of the games great 3B. He was a solid hitter and a wonderful defender. Only Mike Schmidt, Stott Rolen, Adrian Beltre, and Robin Ventura best his numbers in both batting WAR and fielding WAR, and Collins played 300 fewer games than any of them. Managing was less glorious for Collins, as he led only one team, the Boston Americans from 1901-1906. He won the first World Series in 1903 and may have won again in 1904 had one been played. Overall though, just 455 wins means he can’t be placed any higher on this list.
#37 Yogi Berra (MAPES: 60; ZIMMER: 13; Player Manager Score: 21)
While Berra is a bit overrated to me as a player (it’s unlikely he’s among the three or four best catchers ever), he was nonetheless an outstanding player. He won three MVP Awards and finished in the top-4 four more times. On top of that, the guy has ten World Series rings. Ten! In the dugout, he took both the 1964 Yankees and the 1973 Mets to the World Series, losing both. With more than his 484 career wins, he’d be a lot higher on our list.
#36 Ozzie Guillen (MAPES: 19; ZIMMER: 25; Player Manager Score: 22)
Raise your hand if you’re surprised to see Ozzie Guillen here. That’s harmonic mean for you. Guillen is really close to equal in his playing and managing career, so he doesn’t take the huge harmonic mean hit that some unbalanced guys do. He was the 1985 AL Rookie of the Year, and he made three All-Star teams as a White Sox shortstop. As a manager, the fiery Guillen gained some value. In 2005 he led the White Sox to their first World Series championship since 1917. And he won 88 games four times in his seven full seasons in Chicago. Overall, his 747 wins (so far) bring him to 36th on our list.
#35 Bob Lemon (MAPES: 42; ZIMMER: 16; Player Manager Score: 23)
Because he won 20 games on seven occasions and was really popular as a player, Bob Lemon is in the Hall of Fame. He probably shouldn’t be. The seven-time All-Star is without a 6-WAR season and has only two above 4.8. But still, he was one heck of a player compared to most and was a real workhorse for the Indians from 1948-1956. As the result of being a Yankee during the Billy Martin days, he’s also a little overrated as a manager, perhaps. He was in the dugout for three teams over parts of eight years, but he only managed three full campaigns. He had four stints in New York, but none lasted a full season. He managed just 25 games in the 1981 regular season but won a pennant, and he managed just 68 games in the 1978 regular season but won a World Series.
The all-time leader in doubles and the four-time OBP champ might be the most under-appreciated inner circle Hall of Famer. With defense included, his value is quite similar to Ty Cobb’s. Managing was just his side gig, which is all it needed to be to get him here. He won the World Series in 1920, his first full season running the Indians. He had two more second place finishes and 617 total wins. A member of the Hall’s second class in 1937 is the 34th best combination player manager ever.
#33 Don Mattingly (MAPES: 37; ZIMMER: 18; Player Manager Score: 24)
This is a score I expect will go up. After 446 wins in five seasons with the Dodgers, Mattingly is no longer running the show out there, but there aren’t too many guys who don’t get another job after making the playoffs three years in a row. Mattingly is a relatively young man, just 54 right now, and it’s not like back problems will curtail this part of his career. On the field, Donnie Baseball was a heck of a hitter when healthy. The six-time All-Star has a batting title, a ribbie title, and three doubles titles to his credit. And he also won the 1985 AL MVP.
#32 Bucky Harris (MAPES: 17; ZIMMER: 41; Player Manager Score: 24)
This is another mistake we thing the Hall made when electing managers. Yes, he’s seventh in career wins and third when he retired, but he posted a losing record. He’s third in career losses. Yes, he led mediocre teams, mostly the Senators, but it’s not like he got a ton out of them more than a typical manager would. His ZIMMER score is so high because he was a plus manager overall, and for a lot of years. Maybe he’s the Rusty Staub of managing? He also gets a nice bonus from World Series wins in 1924, the first year of his career when he was leading the Senators, and 1947, when he was running the Yankees. As a player, he homered nine times in approaching 5000 at-bats. He got hit by a lot of pitches, drew some walks, and could lay down a bunt, but he’s not a guy you wanted up with a man on first and a couple of outs.
#31 Felipe Alou (MAPES: 33; ZIMMER: 19; Player Manager Score: 24)
I’m not sure if Alou gained more fame as a player or as a manager. He was a three-time All-Star who led the NL in hits a couple of times. And he played seventeen seasons for six teams, so he was at least a little wanted. And he’s the only guy in baseball history to play at least 400 games at first base and at every outfield spot. He found some level of success as a manager too, though he only made the playoffs once in fourteen tries with the Expos and Giants. To be fair, his Expos were leading the NL East when the game shut down in 1994. Still, we can’t count what never happened.
#30 Jimmy Dykes (MAPES: 29; ZIMMER: 21; Player Manager Score: 25)
The first guy to earn 20 points by each of our measures, Dykes was a 22-year infielder for the A’s and White Sox. He wasn’t much with the bat, yet he managed to stick around, probably because of a feel for the game that eventually made him a manager. In that capacity, he never once made the playoffs. He holds the record for most games managed without seeing October at 2962. Still six teams in 21 years thought highly enough of him to give him work. A nice, long career for Dyles makes him the #30 player/manager our list.
#29 Al Dark (MAPES: 35; ZIMMER: 22; Player Manager Score: 27)
“The Swamp Fox”, as he was known, had an interesting career, playing for five teams in fourteen years while making three All-Star teams. It wasn’t until he was 26 that he got a major league job, and he quickly became an impressive offensive shortstop. But shortstops in their 30s begin to regress pretty quickly, which is exactly what Dark did. In 1962 his Giants lost an epic World Series with the Yankees 1-0 in the seventh game when Willie McCovey’s liner was snagged by Bobby Richardson. Perhaps making up for some bad luck, he won the 1974 World Series with the A’s, the last of their dynasty years, after Dick Williams resigned. Overall he won 994 games in thirteen seasons. Not bad.
#28 Mike Hargrove (MAPES: 27; ZIMMER: 28; Player Manager Score: 27)
Hargrove won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1974, was an All-Star in 1975, and had a productive career as a singles hitter who could draw walks. His profile overall was really interesting. Only nine players ever posted more walks while compiling fewer hits. He’s Miller Huggins or Roy Thomas 70 years later, which isn’t a bad little player. Of course, we want more power from our DH types. As a manager, he was blessed with some incredible talent while in Cleveland. Once they rounded into form in 1995, they won five straight AL Central titles. And they got to the 1995 and 1997 World Series, losing to the Braves and Marlins respectively. The O’s and M’s took him on after that, but after six straight fourth place finishes for the two clubs, he was fired the next year and is likely done in the dugout.
#27 Pete Rose (MAPES: 60; ZIMMER: 17; Player Manager Score: 28)
Given how many he signs, it’s no wonder that Pete Rose has one of the prettiest autographs in baseball. Also, it’s kind of remarkable how many guys on this list have won the Rookie of the Year Award, as Pete did in the NL in 1963. Though I don’t think I’m likely to say anything new here about Pete Rose, with the help of BBREF’s Play Index, I’ll try. While Pete is 75th all-time in triples, only 14 of the 74 guys ahead of him also hit more than his 160 homers. And only three – Willie Davis, Willie Mays, and George Brett – top Rose in 3B, HR, and SB. I don’t know how much his gambling hurt the Reds in the standings, if it did at all. What I do know is that in each of the four years he both started and ended as Cincy’s manager, the Reds finished second. In the first full year he was gone, the Reds beat the A’s in the World Series.
As a manager, we’re talking about an inner-circle HoMER. Ten World Series and seven titles tell that story. Sure, he had oodles of talent. But winning isn’t just a matter of having talent. Ask Mike Hargrove and his four HoME-level hitters in 1999, for example. Stengel was also the first manager of the New York Mets and retired after 25 years in the dugout and 1905 wins, good for eleventh all-time. Stengel had a bit of value as a player too. He led the AL in OBP in 1914, and he won a ring in 1922. It’s clear, however, that Stengel reaches this height as a manager primarily.
#25 Ned Hanlon (MAPES: 23; ZIMMER: 35; Player Manager Score: 28)
Mainly for the Detroit Wolverines, outfielder Ned Hanlon held his own as a player. He drew more than his share of walks, and he ran the bases very effectively. But Hanlon’s greatness was as a manager. He won pennants with the NL’s Baltimore Orioles from 1894-1896. And he did the same with the Brooklyn Superbas of 1899-1900. Though it’s not part of this equation, the most impressive thing about Hanlon is his legacy. Many of the greatest managers ever played for him, including John McGraw, Miller Huggins, Connie Mack, Hughie Jennings, and Wilbert Robinson.
#24 Red Schoendienst (MAPES: 35; ZIMMER: 24; Player Manager Score: 28)
Some people say that when Red Schoendienst was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989, it was as a combo candidate. And if you’re going to elect him, that’s the way to do it. A ten-time All-Star at second base, Schoendienst won a SB title, a 3B title, and a H title. His career, while a bit longer, is similar to what we’ve seen so far from Dustin Pedroia. Red was mostly a Cardinal as a player. He was exclusively a Cardinal as a manager. His best season was 1967 when St. Louis won the World Series. He made the playoffs one other time and thrice finished second. Overall I rank him below the Hall level, but Schoendienst’s career deserves celebration.
Schoendienst might have been a combo candidate, but as we move up one in our rankings, we see that none yet have been great as both aspects of their career. Cochrane certainly was a great player, winning the MVP for the A’s in 1928 and for the Tigers in 1934. Overall, he’s one of the ten best catchers ever. He only managed for two full seasons and parts of three others, so perhaps his ranking here is high. On the other hand, he led the Tigers to a pennant in 1934 and to a World Series win in 1935. Almost nobody ever had a peak in the dugout like “Black Mike”.
Not many had more admirable careers than Al Lopez. He’s “only” ninth in games caught right now, but let’s consider who’s ahead of him. His career ended in 1947. Everyone ahead of him played in 1989 or later. No, Lopez wasn’t a great player, though he did make two All-Star teams. What we can assume is that he had a great baseball mind. Otherwise, he wouldn’t likely have been given so much playing time. He displayed that acumen for the game when he was given the chance to manage the Cleveland Indians in 1951. In six years he finished second five times and first once, losing the 1954 World Series to the Giants. From Cleveland, he moved to Chicago where he had five more runner-up finishes. And he took the 1959 team to the Series where they lost to the Dodgers. He had the misfortune of managing teams in the AL when the Yankees were in the midst of their greatest dynasty. Yeah, his was an incredibly admirable career.
If Red Schoendienst can make it to the Hall as a combo candidate, perhaps Hodges can too. Hodges was a very, very good player. No, he’s not at HoME level, but he’s in the conversation. I like neat stats, thought I admit they’re not telling. Only 21 players can top Hodges in runs, ribbies, and Gold Gloves. They’re a who’s who among greats of the last 50 years. Of course, that list also includes Torii Hunter, Gary Gaetti, and Steve Garvey. You can put together a lot of weird lists to make your candidate look great. If we include homers in our calculation, we’re down to eleven guys. Anyway, while lists like this are nice, they’re not a reason someone should make the Hall. But what about managerial greatness too? Hodges led some rough teams in Washington. His best finish in five years was sixth place. Then he got another crappy job with the Mets. But a funny thing happened in 1969. You might call it a miracle. I’m not so sure there’s a spot in Cooperstown for Hodges, but I do know he’s a great combination player/manager.
#20 Fielder Jones (MAPES: 42; ZIMMER: 22; Player Manager Score: 29)
Jones was a turn-of-the-century outfielder who posted only one All-Star type of season. On the other hand, he’s the only ten-time 4-win player among center fielders outside the HoME. Actually, he and Jake Beckley are the only position players with that distinction. His managing career has been similarly forgotten today. But it was pretty good as well. He won 683 games in ten seasons, and he took home the World Series with the 1906 White Sox. Still though, we’re without a candidate who was an excellent player and an excellent manager.
#19 Billy Southworth (MAPES: 20; ZIMMER: 56; Player Manager Score: 30)
And it seems we’re going to have to look beyond candidate #19 to find one. Southworth was mainly an outfielder for five teams over thirteen seasons from 1913-1929. He was a decent player but certainly no star. He was absolutely a star manager though. His thirteen seasons and 1044 wins helped him get to the HoME. But it’s the four World Series appearances and titles with the 1942 and 1944 Cardinals that got him there. Still, I kind of thought this project would offer for us more guys who were stars both as players and as managers.
#18 Frank Robinson (MAPES: 76; ZIMMER: 19; Player Manager Score: 30)
While Al Lopez absolutely had an admiral career, I think I’d trade his for Frank Robinson’s. Robinson is one of the least appreciated superstars ever. As Fred McGriff supporters might say, “He hit 586 home runs when that was still a big deal.” He won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1956, MVP Awards in both leagues, and the 1966 AL triple crown. As you know, he’s also the first African American manager ever and one of the game’s statesmen. He was never once given a good team when he was managing, not with the Indians, Giants, Orioles, or Expos/Nationals. He took over the O’s in the midst of an 0-21 start in 1988. The next year they won 87 games and finished second in the AL East. The 2001 Expos won 68 games and finished fifth in the NL East. The next year Robinson came in, and they finished second. Maybe he was underrated as a manager too. He got jobs where the team needed stability, not when they were ready to win. It’s very possible that Robinson would be close to the top of this list were he just given some playoff-caliber rosters.
Speaking of superstars, it’s no surprise that the best pitcher ever ranks this high. I can’t tell you much that’s new about Johnson, I know that. But it’s remarkable that he averaged 26.5 wins per year in the 1910s. Managerially, he wasn’t a lot more than just another guy. But perhaps he could have had a longer career. He managed only five full seasons. Among those seasons, he finished third three times and second once. He won 90+ games three times. Clearly though, he’s not a star as a player and a manager.
#16 Buck Ewing (MAPES: 66; ZIMMER: 21; Player Manager Score: 32)
It’s hard to try to equate the game in 1890, say, to the game today, but that’s precisely what I try to do with MAPES. And MAPES tells me that Ewing is one of three to six best catchers ever. My adjustments put him at the MVP level four times and the All-Star level six more. As a manager he didn’t do quite as much, though he managed a .553 winning percentage and 489 wins over seven seasons.
I know who the best fifteen combination player/managers are, and I think this is a good place to stop this post since the next guy on our list looks to be the first star both on the field and in the dugout. We’ll talk about him and about the fourteen better combos a week from today.
Brain drain is the result of highly intelligent people leaving a country or a company for better prospects elsewhere. Major League Baseball experienced a bit of a brain drain 35-40 years ago when three Hall of Fame managers, Earl Weaver, Dick Williams, and Whitey Herzog retired. During these years the game also saw the death of Dick Howser and the retirement of Gene Mauch, Billy Martin, and Red Schoendienst. Lots of greats left the game right around the same time.
Overall, the 1990 ballot may be one of our stronger and certainly most interesting to date. There aren’t many managers with whom I’d have more liked to discuss the game than Weaver. And it’s possible that Billy Martin is the person I’d most like to have been with in a bar. Just for one drink though. Martin wasn’t to be trusted so much once he got loaded.
Our eleven managers this round won the World Series eleven times and got there on 22 occasions. Here they are.
G> WS Flags Yrs From W L % .500 Won Won ===================================================================================== Bob Lemon 8 1970-1982 430 403 .516 27 1 2 Ralph Houk 20 1961-1984 1619 1531 .514 88 2 3 Bill Virdon 13 1972-1984 995 921 .519 74 0 0 Earl Weaver 17 1968-1986 1480 1060 .583 420 1 4 Dick Howser 8 1978-1986 507 425 .544 82 1 1 Gene Mauch 26 1960-1987 1902 2037 .483 -135 0 0 Dick Williams 21 1967-1988 1571 1451 .520 120 2 4 Chuck Tanner 19 1970-1988 1352 1381 .495 -29 1 1 Billy Martin 16 1969-1988 1253 1013 .553 240 1 2 Whitey Herzog 18 1973-1990 1281 1125 .532 156 1 3 Red Schoendienst 14 1965-1990 1041 955 .522 86 1 2
Check out our site on Friday to see if any of this group find their way into the Hall of Miller and Eric in our 1990 voting.
When putting together a project like this, you begin to notice some things. And today I have a pretty big one, one that I’m not sure anyone else has ever noticed. The New York Yankees have been a pretty good franchise over the years. I know. Your mind is blown, right?
Okay, maybe not. Still, there are some pretty remarkable things about being a Yankee manager. There are only 24 eligible guys who have ever managed 100 games for the Yankees. Of those two dozen, there are ten Hall of Famers. Not all of them are Hall of Fame managers, of course. But I think it’s pretty remarkable that if you’ve managed 100 games for the Yankees there’s nearly a 42% chance you’re in the Hall of Fame.
Joe McCarthy 1460 Joe Torre 1173 Casey Stengel 1149 Miller Huggins 1067 Clark Griffith 419 Yogi Berra 192 Bucky Harris 191 Frank Chance 117 Bob Lemon 99 Bill Dickey 57
This got me to thinking about other teams. So in today’s post we’re going to review the AL, while we’ll save the NL for next week.
There have been 36 men to manage the Orioles at least 100 games, and seven of them are in the Hall. Earl Weaver leads the way, and he’s joined by Rogers Hornsby, Frank Robinson, George Sisler, Branch Rickey, Bobby Wallace, and Hugh Duffy. Hall of Famer Jim Bottomley also managed 78 games for the O’s in 1937. Stretching things a bit, eligible Orioles who managed at least 78 games have a just over a 22% chance of being Hall of Famers.
Current manager Buck Schowalter is fourth all-time in Oriole wins, training just Weaver, Jimmy McAleer, and Paul Richards. Give him two more seasons, and he’ll trail just Weaver. Maybe he gets in one day?
Boston Red Sox
Boston has had 35 guys manage over 100 games in addition to current manager John Farrell and Cleveland’s active guy, Terry Francona. Joe Cronin is their all-time leader in wins, and he joins Jimmy Collins, Dick Williams, Lou Boudreau, Ed Barrow, Joe McCarthy, Billy Herman, Hugh Duffy, Frank Chance, and Bucky Harris in the Hall. Ten Rex Sox managers of 35 are in the Hall, good for over 28%.
No manager is further over .500 in Red Sox history than 2004 and 2007 champ Terry Francona. But he was really unsuccessful in Philadelphia from 1997-2000, and he’s had decreasing levels of success in his three years in Cleveland. Even with his down year in 2015, he’s going to have averaged over 90 wins his last eleven seasons. Since he’s only 56, he could well have a lot of time left. He’s nearing 1300 wins, and perhaps he can get to 2000. If so, he’ll join nothing but Hall of Famers on the all-time wins list with that many victories.
Chicago White Sox
Jimmy Dykes is the all-time Pale Hose leader in wins, but he finished his career under .500. Next on the list is Hall of Famer Al Lopez. He joins Tony LaRussa, Ted Lyons, Eddie Collins, Hugh Duffy, Clark Griffith, Bob Lemon, Ray Schalk, and Johnny Evers in the Hall. If we drop our cut-off to 87, we add Larry Doby. There have been 32 eligible White Sox to manage 87 games, and ten in the Hall. That’s over 31%.
LaRussa had an amazing career, obviously. He’s one of only three managers ever to win at least 400 games with three different teams. Leo Durocher did it with the Dodgers (738), Giants (673), and Cubs (535). Bill McKechnie got there with the Reds (744), Bees (560), and Pirates (409). And LaRussa got there with the Cardinals (1408), A’s (798), and these White Sox (522). With the third most wins all-time, just 35 behind the immortal John McGraw, he’s a very deserving Hall of Famer.
The Indians haven’t exactly had a storied history. They have only six managers ever more than 37 games above .500. Overall they have 35 eligible managers with at least 100 games at the helm. And for not the greatest team, they sport a reasonable seven Hall of Famers, 20%, among the bunch. Lou Boudreau leads the way in wins. He’s followed by Tris Speaker, Al Lopez, Nap Lajoie, Frank Robinson, Walter Johnson, and Joe Gordon.
Among guys who managed more than three games in Cleveland, Mike Hargrove is third in winning percentage and second to Lopez in wins. After leaving Thome, Alomar, Lofton, and Ramirez in Cleveland, the Human Rain Delay really struggled with weak clubs in Baltimore and Seattle. Had he been given similar quality teams in his other two stops, perhaps he’d still be managing and climbing the all-time win list.
Because of a few very long careers, especially those of Hall of Famers Sparky Anderson and Hughie Jennings, the Tigers have only 28 eligible men to have managed 100 games. And they have comparatively few Hall of Famers. Joining Anderson and Jennings are Bucky Harris, Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane, and Ed Barrow. Still, that’s over 21%.
Jim Leyland is second in games above .500 and third in wins in Detroit. He won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997 and a couple of pennants with the Tigers. Fifteenth all-time in wins, there’s a chance that he gets into the Hall one day.
The former Colt .45’s have only been around since 1962. That explains why they have only 13 skippers ever with 100 games. Bill Virdon leads the way with 544 wins, and the only Hall of Famer ever running the Astros was Leo Durocher, who led the team to a 98-95 record in the last month of 1972 and 1973.
Kansas City Royals
Younger than the Astros, Kansas City joined the AL in 1969, and they’ve had only 19 managers ever. Just 15 of them managed 100 games. Three of those guys, Whitey Herzog, Bob Lemon, and Joe Gordon are in the Hall of Fame.
Gordon managed for four teams in five years in the bigs. In only 1959 with the Indians and 1969 with the expansion Royals did he manage an entire season. Wally Bunker, Dick Drago, and closer Moe Drabowsky were his only 10-game winners that year for a team that went 69-93.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
I hate their name. With that out of the way, they’ve had just 20 managers since they got started in 1961. The two who lasted the longest were their first manager, Bill Rigney, and their current leader, Mike Scioscia. Of the 16 to manage 100 games, only Dick Williams is in the Hall.
Mike Scioscia is an interesting case. He’s around 1400 wins, he’s only 56, and he won a World Series title in 2002. Ten more years at 80 wins per campaign gets him just ahead of Sparky Anderson for sixth ever. It would seem he has a great chance of getting to the Hall at some point.
The Twins entered the AL in 1901 as the Washington Senators. Yet, they have had only 30 managers ever. Only 26 are eligible and managed 100 games. Hall of Famers include Bucky Harris, Clark Griffith, Walter Johnson, Joe Cronin, and the current skipper, Paul Molitor.
Their two longest tenured managers, Bucky Harris and Tom Kelly, had losing records. In fact, of their nine managers who lasted at least five seasons, only Ron Gardenhire, Clark Griffith, and Sam Mele had winning records.
You may have heard of Connie Mack. He managed the A’s for 50 of the 115 years of their existence. The remaining 65 years have been managed by 29 other guys. Hall of Famers with at least 100 games include Mack, Tony LaRussa, Dick Williams, and Lou Boudreau. That’s four of their 25 eligibles with at least 100 games. Interestingly (or not), two of their three managers with fewer than 100 games are in the Hall, Joe Gordon and Luke Appling. Jeff Newman, a catcher for the A’s and Red Sox from 1976-1984, is the other. He went 2-8 in 1986 right before LaRussa took over. He’d never get another managerial job in the bigs.
Joining the AL in 1977, Seattle has not been a very successful franchise despite having players like Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, and Edgar Martinez. As a result of their failings, they’ve gone through a lot of managers. They’ve had 19 in total, though just 15 have managed 100 games. And only Lou Piniella made it through four complete seasons. Dick Williams is their only Hall of Famer, and Seattle is one of frou AL franchises to employ Williams.
Current manager Lloyd McClendon will end his second season in Seattle sixth on their all-time win list. However, it’s no sure thing he’ll be back in the Pacific Northwest after a disappointing campaign. If he’s rehired and makes it through next year at a decent clip, he’ll trail only Piniella in wins.
Tampa Bay Rays
In their 18 seasons, the Rays have never had a Hall of Fame manager. However, there’s a shot Joe Maddon gets some love one day. And there’s a real shot Lou Piniella gets some consideration. I don’t think the same can be said for Larry Rothschild or Hal McRae. The book has yet to be written on the 37-year-old Kevin Cash.
Getting started as the 1963 version of the Washington Senators, you wouldn’t think this team would have gone through so many managers. You’d have thought incorrectly. The Rangers have had 25 managers in their 53 seasons. Only 15 managed a second season. Only Ron Washington, Bobby Valentine, and Johnny Oates managed five full. Only Washington, Oates, and Billy Hunter stand more than six games above .500. And only Ted Williams and Whitey Herzog are in the Hall. Trivially, they’ve had three guys, Eddie Stanky, Del Wilber, and Eddie Yost manage just one game. Only Yost lost.
Toronto Blue Jays
Unlike some other expansion teams, the Blue Jays have had a pretty successful franchise, winning the World Series in 1992 and 1993. Maybe in 2015 too? Time will tell. They’ve had only thirteen managers ever. Only eleven managed 100 games. And only nine are eligible for the Hall. Just Bobby Cox is in.
I was surprised at first when looking at the list of Yankee managers just how many are in the Hall of Fame. But maybe I shouldn’t have been. Sure, there’s a 42% chance you’re a Hall of Famer if you’re eligible and you managed the Yankees for 100+ games. But for a franchise as successful as the Bronx Bombers have been, that’s not a crazy number. The Orioles, Indians, and Tigers are over 20%. The Red Sox are at 28%. And the White Sox are at 31%.
Next week, we’ll look at the National League.
When Eric and I started this process a couple of years ago, we did so because we were frustrated, mostly with the BBWAA and their unwillingness to elect overly qualified candidates. I’m not talking about guys like Bonds and Clemens. I mean the Alan Trammells and Mike Mussinas of the world.
But the more I got into this project, the more upset I became with the players who have been elected. Anyone reading this post knows that the Veterans Committees, in all of their forms, have done a terrible job electing players. Everything from lack of expertise to cronyism to untimely death has led to a ton of terrible choices. In fact, the VC has elected 96 players thus far. We agree with only 48 of those selections. We’ve written obituaries for 47 others, and we’re still mulling the case of Pud Galvin.
Yeah, the VC has been pretty stinky. And we’ll cover their awfulness in a few weeks.
Today it’s the BBWAA that I go after here. They’re supposed to be the real guardians of the gate. Bert Blyleven, somewhat famously, took fourteen tries even though he was a better pitcher than two-thirds of those in the Hall. Gary Carter took six tries even though he may be the second greatest catcher ever. Hell, even Joe DiMaggio took three tries.
Today we’re going to look at the problematic pitching selections made by the writers, and we’ll explore their mistake hitters in two weeks.
Better players on the ballot: Any of the best six players who didn’t get elected would have been better choices: Al Simmons, Charlie Gehringer, Bill Terry, Paul Waner, Jimmie Foxx, Harry Heilmann. And there were others.
The story: This story is a fairly simple one. Pennock was a nice pitcher for the Red Sox, then was traded to the Yankees in 1923 and became a star. From 1923-1928 he was the game’s best pitcher aside from Dazzy Vance. And he was excellent for New York in over 50 World Series innings, including a win for the 1927 Murderers Row Yankees. Sure, he was a good pitcher, somewhat similar in quality to Vida Blue, Camilo Pascual, or Carlos Zambrano. But he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. Then in January of 1948 he died tragically and unexpectedly. Shortly after that, he bested on the Hall of Fame ballot a contemporary and far superior pitcher, Dazzy Vance, and now will forever be enshrined. It took the BBWAA thirteen ballots to make their first mistake. But they were just getting started.
Better players on the ballot: Al Simmons, Bill Terry, Bill Dickey, Dazzy Vance, Ted Lyons, Joe DiMaggio, etc.
The story: Dizzy Dean was a great pitcher, make no mistake. From 1932-1937 he was in the conversation with Lefty Grove and Carl Hubbell as the game’s best. But that was it for his career. In the 1937 All-Star Game, a comebacker from Earl Averill broke his toe. Dean changed his delivery as a result, and he hurt his arm. He was never the same again. Like Pennock, he was a star in the World Series for a well-known team, the 1934 Gas House Gang. Unlike Pennock, death wasn’t a precursor to his Hall selection. But he was very much in the public eye as a beloved broadcaster. He hit the national television scene in 1952 and was elected a year later. If you’re a massive peak voter, I don’t hate Dean’s election. But you’re really have to love peak over career. And you’d have to tolerate a pitcher who might not have even been the game’s best at his peak. Dean isn’t a disgustingly bad selection, no worse than Billy Pierce or Mark Langston would be, but he’s clearly below our line.
Better players on the ballot: As ballots go, this one was pretty weak. But the votes could have gone to Eddie Mathews, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Don Drysdale, or Ken Boyer.
The story: Much of the story here is the relatively weak ballot. Lemon’s best run was from 1948-1956 when he was baseball’s third best pitcher, a far distance behind Warren Spahn and fellow 1976 electee Robin Roberts. Like our previous two pitchers, Lemon had some World Series success, leading the 1948 Indians to their last title. Also like our last two pitchers, there was a bit of a post-career spotlight on Lemon managing the Kansas City Royals from 1970-1972. It’s not exactly Tinker, Evers, and Chance, but there’s a shot Lemon got some residual love from voters as being part of a big-three with Bob Feller and Early Wynn. At least the writers didn’t elect Mike Garcia… Jerry Koosman is a really good comparison, maybe Dennis Martinez. Lemon’s fame eclipses his greatness. That’s why he’s in the Hall and not the HoME.
Better players on the ballot: This was a pretty weak ballot, but votes certainly could have gone to Ron Santo, Dick Allen, Joe Torre, Ken Boyer, Jim Bunning, or Billy Williams.
The story: I don’t really think the Hall failed on this one. It’s just a difference in taste. You prefer thin crust. I like deep dish. You want more relievers. I want fewer. Okay. Based on the relatively limited value of relief pitchers, we at the HoME decided to take only about three (Wilhelm’s best season by WAR, by the way, was 1959, the one year he was predominantly a starter). Our three or so are Goose Gossage, part of Dennis Eckersley, parts of Lefty Grove and Red Faber and John Smoltz, and, of course, one day Mariano Rivera. If we were to take one more reliever, Wilhelm would have been that guy. The story here is really much less about how the Hall failed and more about the different tastes of the BBWAA and the HoME.
Better players on the ballot: Lots of guys. Better pitchers on the ballot include Jim Bunning, Mickey Lolich, and Wilbur Wood. Let’s add in Ken Boyer, Ron Santo, Dick Allen, Joe Torre, Thurman Munson, etc.
The story: Tell me if you heard this one before. Hunter led a couple of teams to World Series titles. Woo hoo! Vote him in! Hunter also won 20 games five times. Writers love that sort of thing. How much? On the same ballot was a teammate of Hunter’s, a guy who was considered a leader of the World Champ A’s, a guy who played an underrepresented position in the Hall, and a guy who we just elected to the HoME, Sal Bando. Worse than even Herb Pennock, Catfish was the single crappiest starting pitcher selection the baseball writers have ever made. If you want my full take on what an awful selection Hunter was, see here and here.
Better players on the ballot: Fingers received more votes than Bobby Grich (11), Thurman Munson (32), Bobby Bonds (40), Luis Tiant (50), Joe Torre (62), Dick Allen (69), and Ken Boyer (71) combined. There was also Ron Santo who should have gotten his honor before his death.
The story: The very worst thing about the election of Hoyt Wilhelm was that it opened the door for the election of Rollie Fingers. Fingers was excellent at what he did. Don’t get me wrong. But Eric and I both prefer the value of Dan Quisenberry, Stu Miller, Lee Smith, John Hiller, Keith Foulke, John Franco, Lindy McDaniel, and Sparky Lyle. Maybe that list isn’t entirely fair. Fingers was spectacular in the post-season, helping the A’s to win consecutive World Series from 1972-1974. And there’s the all-time saves lead, that which myopic writers used to give Fingers votes. For those who are counting, he’s now #12 all-time, with Jon Papelbon right on his tail.
Better players on the ballot: More valuable relievers Goose Gossage and Lee Smith were on the same ballot. But they didn’t have the same momentum, nor did they have the split-finger.
The story: This is a story about momentum, about saves, and about the split-fingered fastball. Sutter had more momentum and time on the ballot than Gossage, so he got more votes. He was once third in saves, behind only Fingers and curiously Gossage. That’s how powerful momentum is. In the minds of voters, it outweighed even saves. As for the importance of one pitch, it’s mentioned on the first line of his Hall of Fame plaque. Oh, and he had a win and two saves for the Cards in their 1982 World Series title. At his peak, Sutter was valuable, about as valuable as Mike Caldwell or Steve Rogers from 1977-1979. That’s not Hall level, right?
If you’re an undeserving HoMEr and want to be elected to the Hall of Fame, you should plan to just sneak in over the line as all of our starters did. Or you could be a relief pitcher, a characteristic shared by three of our seven hurlers. And it’s a really good idea to have some big World Series cred. Six of our seven pitchers fit that category.
Tune in two weeks from today for our review of How the Hall Failed, BBWAA Hitters.