Dave Stieb

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The Cardboard HoME, 2004 Election

For regular readers of this column, you know that we’re collecting baseball cards of each member of the HoME, and we’re occasionally posting our thoughts about them when we complete an election year. I’d call 2004 a fairly interesting year in the Miller/Eric electoral process. We elected two Hall of Famers, one guy who fans of advanced stats like a decent amount, and another who almost nobody supports.

Miller also voted for Sal Bando and Pud Galvin, two of the HoME’s lesser lights. Eric came around on Bando five elections later, and he succumbed on Galvin three votes after that. Man, the calls on the margins are very difficult.

Anyway, maybe I’ll buy a Pud Galvin card one day. Or maybe not. As I write this, the only card contemporaneous with Galvin’s career available on eBay has an asking price of $5,225.00 Yikes! Thankfully, the 2004 electees were less expensive.

If you’ve missed any part of this series, please check ‘em out.

[Getting Started], [1999], [2009], [1981]

Molitor, 1983Paul Molitor – Eric

There’s not a lot of good choices for a Molitor card, and I don’t have his rookie card, so I went with the one that has some action in it. One that’s also really weird when you take a second look at it. OK, so clearly, he’s pulled the bat back on an ill-fated bunt attempt. But who the hell bunts on their front foot? If he’s sacrificing, then it’s amazingly bad form. Even Ken Phelps could show a Little Leaguer how to bunt better than that. By the way, Molitor had trouble moving runners along by the bunt. He attempted 156 sacrifices during his career and succeeded in 48.1% of them. Now, when you think about it, the whole point of the sac bunt is to trade a certain out for certain advancement of the baserunner. Molitor couldn’t even move half his runners along. It’s not as though he had goofball pitchers in front of him in the AL either, so we can’t blame bad baserunning. He just didn’t do it very well.

OK, but you say, dude, he’s bunting for a hit. He must be, right? But it’s hard to even tell where in the batter’s box he is to know. You know, I kinda hate the drag bunt for a righty hitter. If you’re a fast player and people know you bunt, you’re just asking for it because the third baseman will play in, and, unlike a lefty, you have all those extra steps just to leave the batters box. Yeah, do it here and there for the sake of keeping the third baseman from playing back on you, but, seriously. We have data for Molitor from 1988 onward that shows he bunted 48 times for a hit. That’s about 4.5 times a year, which for a righty feels pretty good, right? We don’t know how often he attempted to bunt for a base hit, however. All of this came during the second half of his career. He even cadged four hits by bunt as a 41 year old. That’s gotta be some kind of record. Looking a little more widely, Molitor averaged 30 infield hits a year in his thirties and forties, representing 17 percent of all his hits. You know, he also reached on errors 155 times in his career. There’s a lot of ways to get to 3,000 hits and to the Hall of Miller and Eric.

Molitor, 1980Paul Molitor – Miller

Paul Molitor was a lot of things on a baseball diamond, even if he wasn’t much of a bunter. Before he became a designated hitter, he played a good amount of third base and second base. And this 1980 Topps card notes him as a shortstop, though he only manned that position 57 times in his career and for just 89 innings the year before this card came out. Molitor was also both oft-injured and very durable. From 1978-1987, he topped 140 games only twice. From 1988-1996, he topped 150 games six times, and that doesn’t include 1994 when he led the league in games played. Whatever Molitor was, he was a batter, hitting .300+ twelve times, posting a doubles title, a triples title, and three hits titles. It’s possible he’s the greatest DH in history (apologies to Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez). I had to have a shot of him hitting. Frankly, I don’t love the 1980 Molitor. I like the 1982 Donruss picture more, but I don’t like the card. There just aren’t a lot of great choices, particularly if you have to have Molly in a Brewer uniform, which I did. For pretty much every player, I want him in the uniform with which I associate him most. To be fair to 1980 though, Molitor looks somewhat regal, poised to smack one of his 14th all-time 605 doubles.

Cruz, 1972Jose Cruz – Eric

I went for the rookie card on this one. I often forget the Cards had first dibs on the elder Cruz. They gave him some extended playing time as a platoonish centerfielder from 1970–1974 before selling him to the Astros. Cruz probably didn’t deserve his reputation as a platoonist. In 1971 in 113 PA, he OPSed .733 against southpaws. I’ll grant you that his .395 OPS against them in 59 1972 PAs probably didn’t help his case, but in 1973 he faced 104 lefties and hit them for a .719 OPS. Yet in 1974, the Cards gave him only 13 reps against lefties despite his hitting for a 1.098 OPS against them. It took the ‘Stros a couple years to realize the errors of the Cardinals’ ways. They only gave him 45 and 74 PAs versus same-siders in 1975 and 1976, but from 1977 onward he played every day against all paws.

Once Cruz established himself in Houston as an everyday player, he slashed 292/357/431 in the Astrodome, worth a 124 OPS+, which he combined with outstanding defense to make his way to the HoME. The Astrodome at that time just absolutely killed offense. During his first several years there, it played as a 91 or 92 park factor. For his career, Cruz homered 59 times at home and 106 times on the road. Oddly, though, Cruz seemed able to adapt his game sufficiently well to the Dome. Despite its run-suppressing tendencies, he OPSed 784 at home and 765 on the road.

Still, it seemed as though Cruz had to fight uphill for much of his career to get playing time, against his park, and certainly for any acknowledgement of his play outside of Houston. While he managed to finish third in the 1980 MVP race, that season marked his first All-Star game—at age 32. He wasn’t voted in, he was named a reserve. Nor was he voted into his only other appearance, at age 37. A great player that no one knew about.

Cruz, 1979Jose Cruz – Miller

An understated card for an understated player. The fact that Eric’s card was my second choice for Cruz shows just how few action shots he had. And Eric’s card really couldn’t have been my second choice though. I was going to take Cruz as an Astro no matter what, so maybe there was just one choice for me. His 1980 Topps card seems like he’s checking his swing. His 1981 Topps card looks like he popped out and is falling down. The 1983 Donruss card shows some action. Same with the 1983 Topps. Actually, that’s a pretty cool card, but that and the 1994 Donruss were rejected because in them it seems Cruz was hitting a homer, something he did only 165 times in his career. Like my Molitor choice, Cruz looks noble in this 1979 Topps edition. Plus, the coolest Astro uniform they’ve ever worn existed only from 1975-1979, so I had to grab one of those.

The baseball card market is a bit strange to me. The very top guys go for some nice money, and the worst guys go for nothing. Those things make a lot of sense. The fact that there’s bit a premium for players like Bo Jackson and Whitey Ford makes sense too. What always strikes me is the players in the middle. And there’s quite a middle. If you wanted to collect all eight of our choices for the 2004 Cardboard HoME, you could do so for about a buck if you looked around enough. Just imagine if any of these selections were in the junk wax era!

Card collectors don’t care about Jose Cruz. He’s a common every year of his career. Even though collectors pay a premium for rookie cards, a 1972 Topps Jose Cruz rookie card in Gem-Mint, graded condition can be had for no more than an Enzo Hernandez, Steve Huntz, or Dick Dietz of the same year. No respect, I tell ya.

Eck, 1983Dennis Eckersley – Eric

Look, I hated Eck as a kid. I was a Yankees fan at the time, and the A’s and Yanks had some really nasty encounters in the early 1990s. Tony LaRussa and his minions swept the season series from New York in 1990, took the season series in 1991, and generally behaved in a haughty manner toward the Bronx Bombs of Stump Merrill. At some point, Eckersley, as he did, gesticulated in some manner after nailing down a win. The Yanks didn’t like it. The next day the managers started scrapping, ejections ensued. To sixteen year-old me, TLR’s hair was the embodiment of his arrogance. Naturally, I ported that over to Eck with his trademark shoulder-length locks. So I hated him.

Nonetheless, I’ve warmed to Eckersley since I moved to northern New England, dumped the fat-cat Yankees from my fandom, adopted the Bosox, and watched Eckersley do color commentary. He’s pretty good. Yeah, there’s sometimes his funky word salad, but his analysis of the pitcher-batter confrontation is trenchant, and he doesn’t get all silly like Jerry Remy does. His hair still looks the same. I also learned that Eckersley has publicly admitted to being an alcoholic in recovery, and that he’s committed to helping others find the good fortune he’s had in that realm. To me, that’s someone I can root for.

The other thing besides hair that I remember Eck for was his sidearm motion. It enabled him to get on top of a devastating slider, over which he had pinpoint control. My pal Brett used to do a fair imitation of that very motion in wiffle ball, and it was really tough to pick up the ball. So, I needed a card that showed the hair and the stash. But I also needed one that somehow conveyed his motion. The 1983 Topps turns the deuce nicely with the headshot giving us the appearance, and the in-action shot showing his hair flying through the air as he finishes a motion in such a way that could only have come via sidearmer.

Eck, 1982Dennis Eckersley – Miller

I was torn on Eck. On one hand, he’s in the Hall because of his time in Oakland. On the other, he’s in the HoME in large part because of his time in Boston, the place he had three of his best six seasons, including 1982. Ultimately, since I decided to collect the Cardboard HoME and not the Hall, I had to go to the place where had the most value. Add to that my Red Sox fandom, and it’s an easy enough call.

I like the 1982 Topps version because it’s an action shot that feels to me a lot like I remember Eck. Eric’s 1983 Topps card is actually my second favorite of the eight we show today, but I prefer the 1982. In my opinion, a higher percentage of Eckersley cards than those of other players are pretty cool. Hard to go wrong here.

I want to mention a bit about Eckersley’s announcing because Eric did. Yes, he’s good, perhaps very good at breaking down the battle between pitcher and hitter. That’s something you’d expect from a person who’s reasonably thoughtful and an actual expert on what he’s discussing. Still, Eck’s desire to be cool cools me to his announcing. What the Red Sox should do, since they’re going to have a bunch of Mookie money after sending their best player to Los Angeles, Hiroshima, or somewhere, is donate $500 to the Jimmy Fund every time Eck uses the word “cheese” on the air. We’d cure cancer.

Stieb, 1982Dave Stieb – Eric

What can I tell you, hair and moustaches. My dad had a big broomy moustache when I was a kid, so I always wanted one of my own. Well, my hair doesn’t do the broom, but I’ve worn some kind of facial hair pretty much since I got to college. I like how Stieb has a sort of everyman look in this photo. He’s got the facial hair, his hair’s a little long and bit disheveled under his hat, and he’s got a look on his face that sixteen-year-old Eric remembers using when Eric’s Dad would say, “You may mow the lawn now.” I identify with you, Dave.

Stieb, 1984 FleerDave Stieb – Miller

Unlike Eck, Stieb doesn’t have a ton of great cards. I like the 1984 Donruss a lot, but the popularity of that set and the fact that I selected a few of them for my HoME collection made me go in another direction. For me, there are a lot of acceptalbe, meh-ish Stieb choices. Nothing’s super exciting, but a lot of them are fine. Whatever.

Does anyone run a Dave Stieb for the Hall of Fame Twitter account? I know about Andruw Jones, Todd Helton, the infrequently posting Mike Mussina account, Jim McCormick, and I think one or two others, but I don’t know of a Stieb account. I think there should be one. By the way, if you ever see a Bobby Grich for the Hall account out there, Miller will probably be running it.

Coming up as some point relatively soon, another year to be determined by our card purchases. Happy collecting!

Miller and Eric


Missing Hall of Famers for Each AL Team

A couple of days ago’s Will Leitch put together a list of each team’s missing Hall of Famer – as he states it, “every team’s best player who isn’t in the Hall of Fame.” Before reading any of it, I predicted that it would be atrocious, much like the lists we’ve seen over the years at ESPN. To my surprise (and I must admit disappointment it wasn’t that bad. Still, I thought that it was flawed, and I thought we at the HoME could better. So we endeavored to do just that. Today and Monday, we’ll look at all 30 major league teams and the best player from each who’s not in the Hall of Fame.

By Leitch’s rules, we’re looking at team most associated with a particular player. This subjective measure works quite well for me. For example, I most associate Fernando Rodney with the Rays because of his incredible 2012 season there, or perhaps it’s because I saw him in a Baltimore hotel bar after a game that year. Dave Roberts had over 3000 trips to the plate as a major leaguer, just 101 of them for the Red Sox. But his 2004 stolen base in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees makes him a Bostonian forever, at least in my mind.

Other rules of Leitch’s are reasonable, such as no active players and none who haven’t had a ballot appearance yet.

So in Leitch’s order, here are my picks. Think along with me and comment below if you agree or disagree.

Blue Jays

Leitch’s call: Dave Steib

HoME call: Hell yeah it’s Dave Stieb, one of the more underrated pitchers ever. What if a couple of those near misses turned into no-hitters? For those who don’t remember, Stieb pitched an incredible final week of the 1988 season. On September 24, Julio Franco broke up a no-no with two outs in the ninth. Then in Stieb’s final start, Jim Traber did the same. The pain continued in 1989. Stieb was perfect through 8.2 on August 4 against the Yankees. Then a double by Roberto Kelly ended the bid for perfection. A Steve Sax single ended the shutout. One that people likely forget was four starts later against the Brewers. Stieb hadn’t allowed a hit through 6.2. A Robin Yount grounder to third ended things, and Stieb didn’t allow another hit all day. At least it wasn’t soul-crushing like the other three starts over the previous year. A year later, September 2, Stieb no-hit the Indians. One no-hitter. Imagine if he had four or five. Imagine how we’d look at his career differently if it weren’t for four batters.


Leitch’s call: Mike Mussina

HoME call: Leitch is right. Mussina started with, pitched two more years for, and pitched 450+ innings more for the O’s than the Yanks. He’s an Oriole, and he belongs in. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. I think it’s going to happen this year. It’s sure going to be close.


Leitch’s call: Fred McGriff

HoME call: Let’s start with McGriff being impossible. Maybe he’s a Blue Jay, maybe he’s a Brave. Whatever the case, he certainly isn’t a Ray. The right call is that there’s nobody even remotely deserving of this distinction, but naming nobody would be against the rules. For whatever reason, I consider Lou Piniella a Ray. Maybe he’s a Mariner. Maybe he’s a Yankee. He won a World Series as a Red. And he was Rookie of the Year with the Royals. But he’s a Ray to me. It doesn’t matter though. Managers shouldn’t count here. So I’m going with Aubrey Huff. First and foremost, he’s a Ray. Second, he holds their all-time single-season records for hits, total bases, doubles, extra base hits, and intentional walks, all in 2003. He’s also the only eligible Ray on the team’s single-season RBI list. I think he’s the all-time leading eligible Ray in WAR. Julio Lugo? He’s not a Ray, right? I’ll take Huff over Matt Garza.

Red Sox

Leitch’s call: Roger Clemens

HoME call: I don’t know. As a Red Sox fan, I don’t want to claim Roger. But Leitch is right. I can’t make a non-foolish argument for any other player.


Leitch’s call: Don Mattingly

HoME call: I like Mike Mussina a lot more, but he can’t be most associated with two teams. Roy White is also in the HoME, and there’s no team with which he’s more closely associated than the Yankees. But I think this is an easy enough call, and it’s not Don Mattingly. It’s a player from a generation earlier who was just about equally beloved, Thurman Munson. While Munson beats him by less than four career WAR, he was clearly a better among catchers than Mattingly was among first basemen. I rank Munson 16th behind the plate, and I feel pretty confident he’s in the top-20. Mattingly, on the other hand, is 49th at first base and almost certainly outside the top-40. Regarding Munson, for those interested in silly trivia-type items, the 1970 Rookie of the Year and 1976 MVP never reached 30 doubles, never topped 20 homers, yet reached 100 RBIs on three occasions.


Leitch’s call: Kenny Lofton

HoME call: I really thought about Manny Ramirez for a bit. And I landed on him being an Indian despite an extra 116 games for the Red Sox. Leitch is right though. It’s Lofton – criminally underrated and absolutely deserving of a plaque. So what makes Lofton so underrated? I think it’s a few things. First, he played between 20 and 129 games for TEN different teams. In that regard, he could be considered his generation’s Bobby Bonds in a way. I think it’s defense as well, in that his wasn’t appreciated. He was a contemporary of both Ken Griffey and Jim Edmonds, both of whom I bet you can see making spectacular catches. I don’t have such particular memories about Lofton. And finally, there’s the center field thing as a whole. That position has to be more top-heavy than any other, skewing our perception of all center fielders below the group containing Mays, Cobb, Speaker, Mantle, DiMaggio, and Griffey. Lofton, Edmonds, Andruw Jones, Jimmy Wynn, Willie Davis, Paul Hines. HoMErs, all of them. Yet none are in the Hall.


Leitch’s call: Bret Saberhagen

HoME call: I wanted Leitch to be worse at this. He’s right. Bret Saberhagen was at least somewhat misunderstood when he played. He had the not-totally-incorrect reputation of following great seasons with poor ones. I say that’s not totally incorrect because he did have great seasons By BBREF WAR, he put up 7.2, 8.0, and 9.7 in 1985, 1987, and 1989 respectively. But the seasons following those were anything but poor – 2.0, 3.8, and 3.6. That’s an average of 3.1+ WAR. Saberhagen played for 16 seasons. Had he averaged the same numbers he averaged in those “poor” seasons for an entire 16-year career, he’d have totaled 57.6 career WAR, the same number as Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg and more than Whitey Ford, George Sisler, Luis Aparicio, Bill Dickey…. You get the point.


Leitch’s call: Lou Whitaker

HoME call: Yes!! I don’t know when it happened or why, but though I prefer Bobby Grich,  Whitaker has replaced him as the 2B who I most want to get into the Hall. I think it’s the induction of Alan Trammell that makes me so disappointed that Whitaker isn’t in. In 1994’s The Politics of Glory, Bill James “predicted” that Whitaker and Trammell would be inducted together in 2013. I should have happened.


Leitch’s call: Kent Hrbek

HoME call: The first name that came to mind was Tony Oliva, and he’s preferable to Hrbek. I thought about Joe Judge as well. On the mound, there’s Jim Kaat, Camilo Pascual, and Brad Radke. But I’m going with Johan Santana, and I feel pretty confident this is the right call. He’s clearly a Twin, and he’s the only one mentioned who likely belongs in the Hall. If you’re reading this, you likely saw Santana pitch. And if you saw Santana pitch, you likely saw him dominate. He won three ERA titles, three strikeout titles, three ERA+ titles, and two Cy Young Awards. He pitched within the last decade, yet he’s nearly forgotten in many circles. Why? That’s a real question. Correct me or explain in the comments. It’s not that he won just 139 games. Perhaps that’s why he dropped off the Hall ballot so quickly, but it’s not why he’s forgotten. It’s not that his career fizzled so quickly. We remember guys with really disappointing endings. It’s not that he stunk as a Met as many free agents seem to. He won an ERA title there, made an All-Star team there, and averaged over 5.2 WAR per season as a Met before injuries struck. Is it that he’s not Pedro Martinez or Clayton Kershaw? I don’t buy that. I also don’t buy playing in Minnesota. That didn’t seem to hurt Kirby Puckett any. And he never averaged 7+ WAR over a five-year span. What the heck?

White Sox

Leitch’s call: Eddie Cicotte

HoME call: Though Leitch correctly mentions that Jackson played for the Indians more than he did for the White Sox, it’s clear that we remember Shoeless Joe Jackson from his time on the White Sox, not the Indians. He’s the right call here.


Leitch’s call: Bobby Grich

HoME call: The Angels actually have a few good choices. I like Jim Fregosi more than most, and if we believe the last couple of decades are underrepresented in the Hall, we should all like Chuck Finley more than history has. Still, Grich is a good call. And in spite of my Tiger comment above, I will forever heart Bobby Grich. By the way, our hero was hit 20 times in 1974 but never more than eight in any other season. Do you think it’s possible that he started leaning into pitches that year and stopped because he figured out it hurt to do so? I know it’s almost certainly just coincidental, yet I’d like to hear what he has to say about it. Could be a fun story.


Leitch’s call: Jose Cruz

HoME call: I’m simply stunned that Leitch didn’t take Cesar Cedeño. But he’s right to have chosen Cruz, a better player by just a tad. This is a fine time to reiterate that Leitch did more than an acceptable job with his list. Some calls are debatable, a couple are silly, but most are quite good. I remark on that again because it’s not at all what I’d expect from a mainstream guy. Also, I not-so-secretly believe he forgot Cedeño.


Leitch’s call: Mark McGwire

HoME call: I like Bert Campaneris, Bob Johnson, Wally Schang, and Sal Bando in addition to McGwire. I want to disagree with Leitch, and by a nose I will. I’m taking HoMEr Wally Schang by the slightest bit over HoMErs Johnson, Bando, and McGwire. I rank Johnson 16th in left field, Bando 22nd at third base, and McGwire 26th at first base. However, I rate Schang as 15th behind the plate, though it’s close enough that none of the choices are wrong. So now’s time for a little more on Leitch, or more accurately, about his job. If he wrote about the likes of Wally Schang with any consistency, he’d lose that job. I think about things like that when I read lists like his. Deep in the recesses of what constitutes my brain, I vaguely recall a FOX Sports directive of many years ago that their announcers not talk about dead players. At the time, I found it offensive, insulting, and unnecessarily constraining. Today, I have a bit of a different opinion. wants clicks. The average person visiting that site has no clue who Wally Schang is and isn’t very interested in finding out. But they are interested in Mark McGwire. McGwire is easy to digest; Schang takes work. Anyway, though I don’t agree with Leitch’s call here, he’s not wrong.


Leitch’s call: Edgar Martinez

HoME call: Obviously. It’s nice that Edgar’s visage will be struck in bronze this year. The most beautiful right-handed swing ever? It has to be close.


Leitch’s call: Rafael Palmeiro

HoME call: Let’s start by agreeing with Leitch that Palmeiro is a Ranger. Also, he’s deserving of induction based on his numbers alone. Still, I prefer Buddy Bell. Though Bell played 29 more games and came to the plate 57 from times with the Indians, he was a better player as a Ranger. However, there’s also the matter of Kevin Brown. Brown had his most value as a Dodger, and he had two great seasons as a Marlin. But he pitched 50 more games for the Rangers than for anyone else, and he threw more than 400 innings there than anywhere else. Ugh! It’s such a tough call. But since Brown wasn’t great as a Ranger, I’m going call him a Dodger and place Buddy Bell here.

That’s it for the American League. On Monday we’ll check out the missing Hall of Famers from National League teams.


All-Time HoME Leaders, Pitcher – 61-80

Eric and I work quite a bit to tweak our numbers, so forgive me if I can’t remember exactly when Andy Pettitte fell a few spots for him. I do, however, remember how I felt. Somewhere between relieved and elated. See, I have Pettitte on the wrong side of 100, and Eric one had him in an area that he’d garner an easy enough vote. Couple those facts with the truth that I possess an inappropriate amount of dislike for the guy, and you understand my relief.

Yes, I admit that I have a huge anti-Pettitte bias. As you might know, I’m a Red Sox fan. Even more than that, I’m a fan of logic. And I really hate hypocrisy. Pettitte and Pettitte fans push all of my buttons. First, the guy has five rings for the Yankees, so that’s one strike against him. In terms of logic, I always understood that Pettitte was very good. But the whole narrative about somehow intimidating adult humans by pulling his hat way down made me wild, especially since Pettitte intimidated approximately nobody. Since 1990, there have been 36 pitchers to throw at least 2500 innings. Pettitte is 20th in K/9. That’s not intimidating; it’s average. By the way, he’s 32nd on the list in HBP. Get outta here with that intimidation garbage! Strike two. And finally, we have the hypocrisy, at least as I see it. There are many, many guys who have had their baseball reputations tarnished because of PED use, or even whispers thereof. Not Pettitte, or so it seems, even though he admitted using HGH. That’s strike three – not because of HGH use – but my perception of hypocrisy surrounding him (oh, and his ranking). He’s out.

When he’s eligible for the HoME, we’ll see how things shake out.

[MAPES+], [CHEWS+], [1B, 1-20], [1B, 21-40], [2B, 1-20], [2B, 21-40], [3B, 1-20], [3B, 21-40], [SS, 1-20], [SS, 21-40], [C, 1-20], [C, 21-40], [LF, 1-20], [LF, 21-40], [CF, 1-20], [CF, 21-40], [RF, 1-20], [RF, 21-40], [P, 1-20], [P, 21-40], [P, 41-60]

Pitcher – 61-80

P, 61-80

Where do we project the active player(s) to finish in our rankings?

CC Sabathia

If you haven’t already, you’ll notice a pattern where Eric ranks recent pitchers more favorably than I do right now, which is why he discussed Sabathia a week ago. It’s an innings thing, largely. Anyway, Sabathia has had one hell of a run. Even now, at age 37, he’s taking the ball basically every fifth day and pitching pretty well. Still, 37 is a large number as baseball ages go, and from ages 33-35 he accumulated just 0.48 WAR based on my conversions. Not much more should be expected of him. I could see the Yankees winning the World Series this year and Sabathia hanging ‘em up. Or maybe he pitches a final time in 2019. Let’s say he finishes with 1.5 WAR this year and 1.0 next. That would put him past Rucker, Hershiser, Cooper, and Johan. Of course, he may struggle in the second half and finish at 0.5 and then post -0.8 next year. Even then, he’d fall only behind Appier. I think we’re looking at a future HoMEr here.—Miller

Felix Hernandez

It sure seems like King Felix is no longer royalty. In 2014, he took second in the Cy Young Award vote, 10th in the MVP balloting, and made his fifth All-Star team in six years thanks to an AL-leading 2.14 ERA (170 ERA+), Fifteen victories, and 6.4 WAR. At age 28, he sat atop the throne. Then came injuries that nicked away at his durability and his effectiveness. This chart tells the story all too well:

2014   28  236  170   6.4
2015   29  202  108   4.5
2016   30  153  106   1.4
2017   31   87   97   0.8
2018   32   95   78  -0.5

At this point, Hernandez is no longer even an innings eater. He’s actively sabotaging the Mariners’ bid for the AL West. He’ll likely finish this season as a Mariner and probably next season too. Then the M’s will decline his 2020 option. It’s an open question right now whether the team would be better off with Felix Heredia instead of Felix Hernandez. OK, that’s obviously an exaggeration, but Hernandez has turned into a liability. Is there any hope? Yes. As of June 30th, his previous five starts have resulted in to three quality starts, one five inning/two-run start and one stinker for 3.41 ERA in 29 innings. He’s struck out 25, walked just seven, and allowed only 2 homers during this stretch. Is he fixed? I don’t think so, not until we see a couple months of this kind of pitching.

Even if Hernandez returns to effectiveness, there’s not yet reason to believe he’ll return to the throne. At age 32 with 2,600 innings, he may simply have too much mileage on that golden right arm to ever dominate again. Even so, he’s not that far away from post-career glory. He’s already standing astride the in/out line. Even two or three years of average pitching will nudge him over it.—Eric

Cole Hamels

Remember Folgers Crystals? Folgers would stick a camera in a potted plant near a table at Château de Maison and roll tape while a polished, Reaganesque actor told unsuspecting diners from the pearls-and-cufflinks crowd that the after-dinner coffee they’d been served was actually Folgers Crystals. We could see the incredulity on their faces at learning that Folgers had duped them into drinking its hoi polloi concoctment and not whatever other thin, watery instant coffee the restaurant usually hypercharged them for. I’m going to do that to you now. Which of these fellows, ranked by games started, is Cole Hamels?

     GS   IP   ERA+ pWAA  pWAR
A   402  2659  126    36    61
B   402  2595  121    31    55
C   398  2560  123    37    59
D   392  2598  122    28    52
E   378  2460  124    34    54
F   371  2563  126    37    59

Four of these pitchers, including Hamels, are active. The other two are members of the Hall of Miller and Eric. If you guessed that Hamels is (E), you win a free tablespoon of Folgers Crystals and a teaspoon of Cremora to go with it. The other guys? (A) is Justin Verlander; (B) is Kevin Appier, HoMEr; (C) is Zack Grineke; (D) is Felix Hernandez; and (F) is Bret Saberhagen, HoMEr. Without all my fancy adjustments for usage and stuff, Hamels still hangs in there just fine with these big guns. Toss in an outstanding post-season run in 2008 and a decent bat, and the fact that Hamels is only 34 and has time to add to his resume, and you’re looking at an excellent HoME candidate.—Eric

Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?

Kevin Appier of course. Eddie Rommell too. But I want to talk about the presence of Tim Hudson on the borderline. No, he was never great. Still, he was a high quality arm for many years. Most impressively, at least to me, he had nine seasons of at least 3.5 (rounded) WAR. For reference, there were only 29 pitchers last season who reached that level on the mound. Some might move ahead or behind him once we include work at the plate, but you get the point. By the way, HoME pitchers without at many comparable seasons include Ed Walsh (7), John Clarkson (7), Amos Rusie (8), Wes Ferrell (8), Carl Hubbell (8), Hal Newhouser (7), Bob Feller (7), Joe McGinnity (6), Juan Marichal (7), Rube Waddell (7), Dazzy Vance (8), Jim Bunning (8), Three Finger Brown (6), Old Hoss Radbourn (7), Urban Shocker (8), Red Faber (6), Red Ruffing (8), Tim Keefe (7), Bret Saberhagen (8), Sandy Koufax (6), Johan Santana (8), Orel Hershiser (7), Kevin Appier (8), Bucky Walters (7), Chuck Finley (8), Don Sutton (7), Goose Gossage (7), and Pud Galvin (7). That’s 42% of all pitchers in the HoME. Without question, Hudson deserves a conversation.

I’m going to propound Mark Buehrle here, at least on my side of the ledger. Though, toward the very end of his career, “Future Hall of Famer” and “Mark Buehrle” found themselves in the same sentence more than a few times, the idea never gained steam the way Adrian Beltre’s case did. That’s because Buehrle packed it in after age 36, after 493 starts, 3283 innings, and 16 seasons. Buehrle clicked along like a metronome, 13 to 16 wins, 200 to 230 innings per annum. Had he continued on, he might have reached 250 or even 270 wins and 4,000 innings. Buerhle was the ultimate soft-tossing lefty. His fastball was slow, everything he threw had a bend to it, and usually it broke downward too. He fielded his position amazingly well, and he had one of the very best pickoff moves in the game. He tossed a perfecto and another no-no for good measure. Like the aforementioned Tim Hudson, he was annually very good, rarely if ever poor, and hardly ever a-maz-ing. He’s more in the Don Sutton camp than the Ed Walsh camp, for sure, and he’s got a little more under the hood in my eyes than Sutton did. Buehrle racked up 30 WAA in 3283 innings. Sutton totaled 23 in 5282 innings. So this is not an extreme long-and-low case like Sutton’s, but the eerie consistency of Buehrle’s career feels a little like a novelty, and the lack of a dominant season nor the impression of dominance leaves him susceptible to underratedness. I suspect he’ll get one-and-doned by the BBWAA, which will be a real shame.—Eric

Where do we disagree with one another the most?

While Miller and I have a 24-slot gap between us for Burleigh, we have a 34-slot gap for Buehrle. Sorry, I just can’t resist.—Eric

I rank Ted Breitenstein #61, while Eric has him at #132. Huge difference! However, I’m not close to fighting for his inclusion in the HoME.  I put Charlie Buffinton at #65, which is fifteen spots ahead of Eric’s ranking. Again though, I’m not advocationg one iota for his HoME inclusion. Same deal with the gap of 26 rankings for Nap Rucker, the gap of 23 ranking for Babe Adams, and the gap of 24 rankings for Burleigh Grimes. One area where we agree is on our individual and collective need to evolve. And that I have in terms of reliever leverage. Eric ranks Dizzy Dean at #62 and 4% over the in/out line. I now rank him #78 and 4% below it. A guy who’s only 4% below the line is certainly worthy of discussion for me. You’ll kindly not let Eric know that he also has Pettitte 4% over, while I have him 4% under. Thank you.—Miller

Are there any players who MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate? 

Eddie Rommel and Dizzy Dean vaulted into contention for me when I added a level of relief leverage to my pre-1946 rankings. There are two main issues here. First, I don’t know if my leverage factor makes sense. Second, even if it does, I don’t know the actual leverage for either Dean or Rommel. The truth is that they’re both in contention for the HoME now, so I have to try to figure those things out.—Miller

Eddie Rommel is something of a WAR darling, and until we get leverage-based WAR that more fully assesses his relief work, I’m standing pat on him. Especially because Rommel didn’t pitch as well in relief as he did when starting, and that’s the opposite of how it’s supposed to work. Dean on the other hand, is a little different story. Connie Mack used Chief Bender as an ace closer back in the deadball era. He didn’t really use Rommel that way, mostly because he had some fella named Lefty Grove around. Rommel never led the league in saves, finished in the top 10 only six times and only twice in the top five. Grove, on the other hand, finished in the top ten in saves every year from 1926 (his second with Mack) until 1933 (his last). He led the AL once, finished third twice, fourth twice, and fifth once. Grove notched only four saves in his eight years in Boston pitching in relief only 14 times. From 1920 to 1933 (Rommel’s rookie season to Grove’s last season in Philadelphia), Grove finished third in saves in the majors (50, trailing Jack Quinn by one and Firpo Marberry by 45). Rommel finished tied for sixth (30, trailing Wilcy Moore by 19, Waite Hoyt by 9, and tied with Sarge Connally whom I’ve never actually heard of until right this moment). Not so sure that helps Rommel’s case much. Meanwhile, Dizzy Dean was used exactly like Grove. From 1933 to 1936, Old Diz finished second, second, fifth, and first in saves. He saved just one more game after that, ever. From 1932–1936, his 30 saves led all of baseball.

So once we get leveraged WAR for these times, Dean will probably look better on BBREF than now. Hard to say whether Rommel will or not, but I kinda doubt he’ll make significant jump. In either case, I think we are right to continue thinking about them deeply and to continue saying no to them until their circumstances become a little clearer.—Eric


In a week, it’s pitchers 81-100.


All-Time HoME Leaders, Pitcher – 41-60

We hope this series is fun for you, and by the looks of it, a great many of you are enjoying it. The best thing, I think, is to look at our rankings versus yours. See where you think we’re missing something, or perhaps learn from something we bring up.

If we’re doing the right thing, this is the type of thing that’s going on. I know it’s going on internally. This week’s lists won’t look too different from each other, but the lists next week were going to be a mess. When our rankings differ by a lot, I try to look for the reasoning. Years ago, it was sometimes something as simple as a data entry error. Today, it’s more a difference of opinion on how to rank players, which is totally fine by me. What’s less fine is when one of us is making a smart decision that the other isn’t making. That had been the case on the mound. Simply, Eric was offering leverage credit to relief pitchers in a reasonable way. I was ignoring such leverage. And as a result, my numbers for some pitchers prior to 1946 were deflated. Since, I’ve adapted by systems to be more in line with Eric’s – really, to be more in line with what I think makes sense. So before we get to today’s rankings, I want to share with you our top-40 with my adjustments. Nothing big, but we always sweat the small stuff at the HoME.

P, 1-40

Moving on. All posts in this series are here for your convenience. Enjoy our next 20 pitchers.

[MAPES+], [CHEWS+], [1B, 1-20], [1B, 21-40], [2B, 1-20], [2B, 21-40], [3B, 1-20], [3B, 21-40], [SS, 1-20], [SS, 21-40], [C, 1-20], [C, 21-40], [LF, 1-20], [LF, 21-40], [CF, 1-20], [CF, 21-40], [RF, 1-20], [RF, 21-40], [P, 1-20], [P, 21-40]

Pitcher – 41-60

P, 41-60

Where do we project the active player(s) to finish in our rankings?

Zack Grienke

Greinke is a fascinating pitcher, and historically unusual. A large portion of his pitching value is tied up in his 2009 and 2015 seasons. Also, he’s a pretty nice hitter for a pitcher. What I’m saying is that I don’t love the idea of using comparable pitchers to project him moving forward because there just aren’t many truly comparable careers. So I’ll do what any good prognosticator does, I’ll guess. Greinke is 34 this year, and he’s off to a good enough start on the mound and a very good one at the plate. Yeah, there I go again, thinking rationally about a pitcher about whom I can only guess. Giving him seasons of 5, 3, 2, and 1 WAR seems reasonable enough. And if he were to do that, he’d jump up to #30 in my rankings, between Hal Newhouser and Bob Feller. To me, he’s a Hall of Famer already. With those seasons, he’d be in the upper half of HoME pitchers. But is he seen that way? I don’t think voters are going to love him. [Looks at BBREF]. Yeah, he’s south of 180 wins as I type this. He’s going to have trouble.—Miller

Justin Verlander

I love that Verlander went from amazing to fork-tender to amazing. Miller and I came close to writing him off, wondering between ourselves whether he would wind down and never quite get back to average, let alone excellent. Well, he did. It’s not as though he’s stopped either. He’s already this year pushed past fellows on my list such as Juan Marichal, Jim Bunning, and Don Drysdale. He could even bust into the top-40 this year if he continues to pitch insanely well. Now, Verlander is 35 this year, and we thought at this age Roy Halladay would be great forever. He wasn’t, and Verlander’s career could go at any moment. It takes just a tweak of some muscle or a small drop in velocity for a career to go south in a hurry. If Verlander declines gracefully, he could make the top 30ish.—Eric

With the caveat that he’s already begun to regress some, the 2018 version of Justin Verlander may be the best one we’ve seen. This from the 2011 AL MVP and a guy who already has two 8 WAR seasons. This is amazing, not just because he’s 35 now, but because he looked like he was kind of washed up in 2014 and 2015. Like with Greinke, I don’t know quite what to do with him. Let’s give him 8 WAR this year, then a pretty steep decline to 5, 3, and 1.5. That feels reasonable enough to me. And if it happens, he shoots up to #25 all-time, right between Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina. Unlike Greinke, I think the voters will love him. Of course, I’m not sure why.—Miller

CC Sabathia

Carsten Charles has walked the tightrope for two-and-a-half seasons. His ERA has beaten his FIP by 35 points, 80 points, and 99 points from 2016 through June 19th of 2018.  There’s a little smoke and mirrors here. On the one hand, his home parks have played at about a 103 park factor in those seasons. But as a lefty, Sabathia doesn’t face the same problem that a righty would in New Yankee Stadium with its short porch in right field. CC has also benefited from average to excellent defense behind him. Overall, while his ERA this year is 3.30 at this writing, he’s only managed a single RAA above average. Also playing against the big lefty? His own durability. Injuries have cut down his ability to go deep into games. From age 20 to 32, Sabathia appeared 415 times, all starts, pitched 2775.33 innings, an average of 6.69 per start. Since then, he’s averaging about an inning less a game (5.73). Unsurprisingly, CC is striking out about one fewer batters per game than in his prime. He’s issuing about one-half a walked more per game. He’s giving up a half a homer per game more than during his peak. That’s aging for you, especially when you’re a big-bodied guy throwing all that weight around with max effort. On the other hand, he remains at least an average pitcher and sometimes a very good one. I don’t know how much further he can climb in his decline years. Probably not much. I’d be surprised if he made the top 50, especially since reports have filtered out suggesting he may retire at the expiration of his current contract.—Eric

Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?

I think they diverge in a lot of places. Mariano is my top ranked reliever by far, yet he’s only 42. I suspect that most of the closer-loving world would place him in the top-20, if not the top-10. Then there’s David Cone. Just try convincing someone he was as good as John Smoltz. If he was so good, how come he didn’t win 200 games? If he was so good, why wasn’t he an elite closer for three years? Blah, blah, blah. And of course, there are those 70s pitchers, Rick Reuschel and Luis Tiant, both clearly Hall-worthy, yet one completely and the other largely ignored. Even I’ve kind of ignored Looie, and that’s a shame. At least it’s in favor of Reuschel. Tiant was the classic underrated player in my mind. Stop me if you heard these things before. He wan’t seen as great when he was young, never winning more than a dozen games until he was 27. Then he had his breakout season obscured of 1968 by Denny McLain and Bob Gibson. Subsequently, it’s been obscured by history. It’s as if 1968 is the Coors Field of seasons. Anything that happened that year can be diminished with the mere mention of some outlying numbers. He also had a mid-career dip when he went 17-30 over three years. He jumped from team to team, playing for six in his career. And he hung on too long, posting an ERA+ of just 82 over his final three campaigns. Oh, and he played at the same time as Seaver, Carlton, et al. The guy seemingly had everything going against him. On a positive note, he’s beloved in Boston and I suspect throughout the baseball world, at least among those with good memories. With the right composition, I could see an Era Committee voting him in one of these days.—Miller

Thirty years ago, when I was learning the history of our game, Bob Feller was a living legend. Only the war had stopped him from reach 300 wins and breaking Walter Johnson’s strikeout record. There was that famous old film of a motorcycle speeding by at 90 MPH while Feller threw a baseball that hit its target as the bike crossed the same plane. Appreciation of Feller had probably reached its apogee about a decade before that, but as a pup I had a clear impression of his greatness. Today I report ranking him a mere 42nd in my rankings. Hey, it’s just my opinion, but I think the war didn’t prevent him from winning 300. Instead it allowed him to win 266. Feller shouldered an incredible workload. Since the introduction of the lively ball in 1920, Bob Feller leads all pitchers during their age-seventeen season with 62 innings. He leads all eighteen-year-olds (148.67), all nineteen year-olds (277.67), all twenty-year-olds (296.67), all twenty-one- year-olds (320.33), and all twenty-tow-year-olds (343). The only reason he doesn’t lead 23 year-olds is because he was off fighting the Axis powers for most of the next four years. He returned to finish out the 1945 season then pitched a full year in 1946. That year, you guessed it, he led all twenty-seven-year-olds since 1920 in innings pitched with 371.33. In 1947, he did not lead all twenty-eight-year-olds since 1920 in innings, but he did lead all of MLB that year with 299. The next year he threw 280.33, and his ERA+ dropped from 130 to 114. He was never a great pitcher again. Overall, he went 108-79 in 266 post-age-28 starts with an ERA+ of just 106 and a strikeout rate about half of what it was through age 28. He was not a Pat Rapp innings eater, but he probably wasn’t a number two starter either, certainly not for a good team. My hypothesis: Feller’s pitching musculature was probably saved from the specific kind of wear and tear that grinds down a career. It might have had a chance to even heal just a little since he wasn’t throwing top-level, pressure-packed innings every three or four days (he threw very little in the service). But once he returned, the clock started ticking again, and all that early work caught up to him. How could it not? He had back, shoulder, and arm problems in the late 1940s and was reduced to a Sunday starter by the early 1950s. It’s pretty easy to imagine that had Feller continued throwing all those pitches at ages twenty-three, twenty-four, and twenty-five, he might have never made it to age twenty-nine. But we didn’t understand all of this thirty years ago. We could know that he had some injuries but not how badly they may have hurt his career. We could know he threw an impressive number of innings but not that they probably had residual, cumulative effects. Now we know a lot more, and the shape of his career makes a lot of sense, even if it loses a tiny bit of its sparkle.—Eric

Where do we disagree with one another the most?

Speaking of Feller, we have a pretty good gap there with Miller being the bigger fan than I. But a bigger gap exists with John Smoltz. I’ve got him at #31, Miller at #50. I suspect that the difference has to do with my compadre having a strong peak orientation to his sifting system than I do. Smoltz is many things, but a high-peak pitcher is not one of them.  While he does have five seasons above 5 WAR when I make all my little adjustments, he has but one above 6 WAR (7.5). So, I’m looking at a really solid prime and Miller’s looking at a low peak. That’s a sensible difference of opinion. That doesn’t explain why we see Red Ruffing differently. Miller’s got him ten or so slots above my ranking. But it might well explain why Miller has Charlie Buffinton 20 spots higher than I do. Well, that and I take a lot of the stuffing out of the 18th Century pitchers.—Eric

I think it’s Clark Griffith. I rank him #43, and Eric doesn’t even put him on this week’s list. Or next week’s. My ranking suggests I should have pushed hard for his HoME candidacy, while Eric’s says he should have pushed back. The truth of it is, I didn’t push for Griffith, the player, because I thought his era was already well enough represented on the mound with hurlers I preferred. Happily for me, the pitcher/manager/owner, Clark Griffith found his HoME as a combination candidate.—Miller

Are there any players who MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate? 

I always worry about how my system treats relievers, so maybe Mariano should rank higher. And maybe my older dudes like Griffith, should be lower. But I don’t think there are any shockers on this list. They all seem reasonable enough to me.—Miller

Actually, there is a shocker on this list: Urban Shocker. (Oh, that was amazing.)

I concur that relievers are problematic. It’s a theoretical worry, in particular. It’s amazing to me that Mariano Rivera threw 60 or 70 innings a year for twenty years and ends up among my top forty pitchers. It’s not that leverage or chaining are the issue. Instead it’s more about what we might call “degree of difficulty.” Recently Kevin Cash started Sergio Romo because the first inning is when the offense is guaranteed to have its offense set up the way it wants. Then Romo is removed after three or six outs because, wait for it, he doesn’t have a deep enough repertoire to go through a lineup twice without getting crushed the second time through. This is a fundamental concern I have with relievers from the last thirty years: We multiply run prevention due to its in-game importance, but we do not ding it for the fact a half-decent relief pitcher enters with everything in his favor. Consider:

  • He isn’t guaranteed to face the opposition’s best hitters and in many cases never does.
  • In the NL, he might face a disrupted batting order due to double switching, which also means he’ll likely face a pinch hitter, and pinch hitting carries a massive offensive penalty.
  • He is, inn 99.99% of all games, guaranteed to never face even one hitter twice.
  • He enters the game after at least one other pitcher, so his opponent has to adjust to him, not vice versa.
  • In general, opponents batters see very little of him during the year, especially because he may not see even five guys in the lineup in any given appearance, so there’s a lack of in-season familiarity as well.
  • In many cases, a reliever enters or exits when a favorable or unfavorable matchup occurs.

Mariano Rivera had a devastating cutter. Would it have been so devastating if a batter saw it twice or thrice a game? I doubt it. Especially since Rivera basically chucked his other pitches and relied almost exclusively on the cutter. If he’d been forced to mix in other pitches, could he have been effective?

The question is whether we should adjust for degree of difficulty. I suspect that the analytical community has consensus around the idea that we should not. I’m not entirely sure they are wrong, but I am also not sure that they are right. Context is everything, and the only context we are looking at currently are very specific in-game situations whose context runs far deeper for relievers than for any other player on the field. If we use a Win Probably Added approach, then relievers seem hugely productive, but we completely ignore that they are used more electively than any other kind of baseball player, and that seems like a big chunk of context that should be accounted for.—Eric


Next week, it’s pitchers 61-80.



Mount Rushmore, Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays, SIAn expansion team in 1977, it took until 1982 for the Blue Jays to not finish last. But by 1985 they made the playoffs, and they won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. By now, they’re getting to a point where they’re almost at .500 as a franchise, which is no easy task for a team that was more than 150 games under just three years in.

Guys It’s Not

For whatever reason, Dave Stieb and his 57 Blue Jay WAR made four starts for the White Sox in 1993. Roy Halladay had his best years in Philadelphia. Jose Bautista was all over the place before finding a home up north. Tony Fernandez was shipped to the Padres in the McGroff/Alomar/Carter deal, and he played for five teams on top of that. Carlos Delgado was a Marlin and a Met. Jimmy Key was a Yankee and an Oriole. The list keeps going with one guy after another who played for other teams. When I got to Lloyd Moseby and his 25.9 WAR as a Jay, I thought I had my first honoree. Nope. I guess I blocked out his two years in Detroit. Even though Ernie Whitt, #21, had negative combined WAR at his three other stops, those 294 trips to the plate still count. This is not going to be a pretty Rushmore.

Blue Jay Mount Rushmore

Kevin Pillar: Yep, the defensive whiz is the single best player ever to play for the Jays and only the Jays. At 12.1 career WAR, he’s only tied for 24th among Blue Jay offensive players. Yet, he’s the only one not to play elsewhere. Pillar can’t hit, as his -39 career Rbat shows, but his 65 Rfield shows that he’s a great defender. Of course, it’s only a matter of time until he plays for another team.

Marcus Stroman, 2017Marcus Stroman: It has taken Stroman just 95 career games to reach 10.9 career WAR and become the best Blue Jay hurler ever not to play for another team. Promising in 2014, injured in 2015, struggling in 2016, it was 2017 during which Stroman became a star. He has plenty of time to move from his tie for 15th among Jay pitchers all-time. If he comes close to repeating, he’ll be in the top-10 after 2018.

Luis Leal: From 1980-1985, Leal was about a league average pitcher, finishing his relatively unknown career with a 51-58 record and 10.8 WAR. For a bit of trivia, he was the starter when Len Barker pitched a perfect game for the Indians in 1981.

Ricky Romero: For a minute there, it seemed like Romero might turn into something. Through three years in the major, he had 42 wins and 11.6 WAR. Things went south at some point in 2012 though. There was no injury. It’s just that his mediocre K rate dipped and his dangerously high BB rate rose. Those events in combination made a baseball career unsustainable. He didn’t pitch again in the majors after 2013 and has just 9.7 WAR to show for his career.

My Blue Jay Rushmore

Dave Stieb: With nine Blue Jay WAR on Halladay, Stieb is the best player in Jay history, and it’s not really close. Because he never won more than 18 games in a season and only won 176 in his career, he is an incredibly underrated pitcher. But at his 1982-1985 peak, he was far and away baseball’s best pitcher with 29.4 WAR. The only other hurler in the game within ten WAR of Stieb over those four seasons was Mario Soto at 22.2. And if we expand our range of seasons to 1980-1985, again, Stieb leads all of baseball, and he leads all but Steve Carlton by more than ten WAR. How about we expand some more. From 1979-1990, a period of twelve years, Dave Stieb posted 55.7 WAR. Roger Clemens is next at 46.3. Then Bert Blyleven at 41.3. Not a single other pitcher is within 17 WAR. Last one – since 1974, Stieb is fifth among AL pitchers in WAR.

Jose Bautista: He was nothing before he became a Blue Jay. Then in 2010 he exploded for an MLB-leading 54 homers. He’s hit over 200 more since then and made six straight All-Star teams. Whether it’s the 2015 playoff bat flip or the possibly related punch he took from Rougned Odor, Jose Bautista is who I think of when I think of the 21st century Blue Jays.

Tony Fernandez, 1985Tony Fernandez: Fourth on the Jays all-time WAR list, Fernandez makes the Toronto Rushmore because he put up 37.3 WAR in 1450 games with the Jays but only 7.7 in over 700 games elsewhere. Of course, if he never left Toronto, what’s below would not have happened.

Joe Carter: That’s right. On an analytics-oriented blog, we pay tribute to Joe Carter with a place on the Blue Jay Mount Rushmore. In his seven years in Canada, Carter averaged 29 HR and 105 RBI. He also averaged less than 1.2 WAR. He had a mediocre power bat and an incredibly important lineup spot. That explains the runs batted in. Check out the .308 on base percentage in Toronto and the 104 OPS+ for signs that he really wasn’t a very good player. Oh, but he did hit a home run, one of the most famous in baseball history, to get his face etched on this fake edifice. With the Jays trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the sixth game of the World Series, Mitch Williams walked Rickey Henderson, induced a fly out from Devon White, and gave up a single to Paul Molitor to set the stage for Carter. Tom Cheek called it. “Touch ‘em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”

Our final Rushmore installment, the Washington Nationals, is next week.


The trad-stat case for VC pitchers

Last time out, we looked at how a bunch of hitters we advocate for who might appear on upcoming Modern Game and Today’s Game ballots looked from a more traditional-stats point of view. We ranked them at their position in a battery of counting and simple average stats. Today we turn to the moundsmen. Same idea, different figures. But I’m going to add one twist. I’m going to compare to all Hall pitchers then to those whose careers started after World War II (plus a couple guys who started a couple years before it). Starting pitching is different enough after the war that we need to account for those fundamental usage changes.


  • Number of Hall of Fame starting pitchers: 62 (includes John Smoltz but not Denis Eckersley)
  • Ranking to be average or better among all Hall starters: 31st
  • Number of post-war Hall of Fame starting pitchers: 25
  • Ranking to be average or better among post-war Hall starters: 13th

Kevin Appier

                 W   L   PCT    G   GS  CG SHO   IP     K   ERA  WHIP
TOTAL          169  137 .552  414  402  34  12 2595  1994  3.74  1.29
ALL RANK        60   12   49   57   48  63  63   59    34    62    49
POST-WAR RANK   25    5   19   25   24  26  26   25    24    26    23

Appier was overlooked during his career thanks to being on lousy teams. That cost him wins and exposure. And like most of the guys we’re about to talk about, the decline in games started and innings pitched leaves his looking underwhelming. The analytics case is more subtle and there’s no way to turn what you see above into a convincing argument for the winswinswins crowd who thought that real men didn’t come out of a game and that pitchers with ERAs over 3.00 weren’t any good. Actually, I should be careful about say that. Basically, the VC doesn’t elect anyone, and especially not pitchers. Do you remember the last MLB pitcher the VC honored? Probably not because it was 20 years ago, and his name was Jim Bunning. During that time, many have complained about the BBWAA’s tightness around pitchers. They’ve elected nine:

  • John Smoltz
  • Greg Maddux
  • Tom Glavine
  • Pedro Martinez
  • Randy Johnson
  • Bert Blyleven
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Don Sutton
  • Phil Niekro

That’s about one to two less than we’d figure given the overall composition of the Hall, but also far less than is likely apt given that we’re now electing from a larger pool of players thanks to multiple expansions. Anyway, not electing even one pitcher in 20 years makes me think I shouldn’t have even bothered writing this post.

Kevin Brown

                 W    L   PCT    G   GS  CG  SHO    IP     K   ERA   WHIP
TOTAL          211  144  .594  486  476  72   17  3256  2397  3.28  1.22
ALL RANK        50   18    34   47   36  60   61    47    23    48    39
POST-WAR RANK   23    6    12   22   19  23   24    22    18    18    20

With Brown we again see the trouble that contemporary pitchers face. Kevin Brown was absolutely one of the best pitchers of his generation, and his career by years was pretty normal. But with such lower usage for starters and with such higher batting totals in the 1990s and early 2000s, Appier, Brown and others get the double whammy. This is a big part of why only the no-brainer pitchers are making it right now.

David Cone

                 W    L   PCT    G   GS  CG SHO    IP     K   ERA  WHIP
TOTAL          194  126  .606  450  419  56  22  2898  2668  3.46  1.26
ALL RANK        58    7    26   54   45  60  61    56    17    55    46
POST-WAR RANK   25    4     9   25   23  23  24    23    15    24    22

Another log on the 1990s/2000s context fire. It’s clear why the BBWAA passed over Cone as well. Didn’t have the wins (under 200, gasp!). We should take this moment to understand something really important. The generation of the 1960s/1970s produced six 300 game winners as well as a 287 game winner, a 284 game winner, Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal, Sandy Koufax, and Bob Gibson. Seems amazing that so many great pitchers emerged at once! Maybe. And maybe the second deadball era of the 1960s had a lot to do with it. Gibson hung a 1.12 ERA on the league in 1968. Think about how different that is from today (even with the high strikeout rates) let alone the pinball 1990s and 2000s when David Cone was in his prime. Kevin Brown, for example, compares favorably to Juan Marichal relative to their respective peers. Brown compared to Maddux is like Marichal compared to Seaver.

Let’s take this one step further. As we noted above, the BBWAA has elected Smoltz, Maddux, Glavine, Pedro, and The Big Unit from the 1990s–2000s cohort of pitchers. Among them, Smoltz is clearly in a second tier, but because of the sweet taste of saves, he got some kind of special dispensation. So let’s make a little map:

              W   PCT  ERA    IP  RESULT
Tier One (6)
Clemens     354  .658  3.12  4917  On Ballot yr 5
Glavine     305  .600  3.54  4413  Elected yr 1
Johnson     303  .646  3.29  4135  Elected yr 1
Maddux      355  .610  3.16  5008  Elected yr 1
Martinez    219  .687  2.93  2827  Elected yr 1
Smoltz      213  .579  3.33  3473  Elected yr 1[154 SV]

Tier Two (4)
Brown       211  .594  3.28  3256  <5% yr 1
Mussina     270  .638  3.68  3562  On Ballot yr 4
Schilling   216  .597  3.46  3261  On Ballot yr 5

Tier Three (9)
Appier      169  .552  3.74  2595  <5% yr 1
Cone        194  .606  3.46  2899  <5% yr 1
Finley      200  .536  3.85  3197  <5% yr 1
Guidry      170  .651  3.29  2392  <5% yr 9
Hershiser   204  .576  3.48  3130  <5% yr 2 Not elected by VC
Morris      254  .577  3.90  3824  Not elected after 15 yrs
Saberhagen  167  .588  3.34  2563  <5% yr 1 Not considered by VC
Stieb       176  .562  3.44  2895  <5% yr 1 Not considered by VC

I could have included a couple others. Maybe you have Mussina in Tier One or Smoltz, but based on the way the BBWAA has voted so far (steroids and Kevin Brown’s bad attitude aside), this is a reasonable assessment of how they’ve looked at it so far.

Now here’s that prior generation with all the big winners.

             W   PCT  ERA    IP  RESULT
Tier One (6)
Seaver     311  .603  2.86  4783  Elected yr 1
Carlton    329  .574  3.22  5217  Elected yr 1
Ryan       324  .526  3.19  5386  Elected yr 1
Koufax     165  .655  2.76  2324  Elected yr 1
Gibson     251  .591  2.91  3884  Elected yr 1
Palmer     268  .638  2.86  3948  Elected yr 1

Tier Two (6)
Hunter     224  .574  3.26  3449  Elected yr 3
Marichal   243  .631  2.89  3507  Elected yr 3
Niekro     318  .537  3.35  5404  Elected yr 5
Jenkins    284  .557  3.34  4501  Elected yr 3
Perry      314  .542  3.11  5350  Elected yr 3
Sutton     324  .559  3.26  5282  Elected yr 3

Tier Three (10)
Blue       209  .565  3.27  3343  Not elected after yr 4
Blyleven   287  .534  3.31  4970  Elected yr 14
Bunning    224  .549  3.27  3760  Elected by VC
Drysdale   209  .557  2.95  3432  Elected yr 10
Kaat       283  .544  3.45  4530  Not elected after 15 yrs & VC
John       288  .555  3.34  4710  Not elected after 15 yrs & VC
Lolich     217  .532  3.44  3638  Not elected after 15 yrs & VC
Tiant      224  .571  3.30  3486  Not elected after 15 yrs & VC
Wood       164  .513  3.24  2684  Not elected after yr 6 [57 SV]

Despite about two-thirds or so the number of teams in the league, the older generation includes more pitchers in Tiers Two and Three who received substantial support, being either elected or at least, on the ballot for a very long time, or still kicking around the VC ballot. In the more recent group, Tier Two has fewer pitchers than the previous generations and even more interestingly, the more modern Tier Three pitchers have received virtually no support at all. A mere fraction of what the older guys got. The BBWAA has failed to adjust to the new reality, and the VC has done no better.

Chuck Finley

                 W    L   PCT    G   GS  CG SHO    IP     K   ERA  WHIP
TOTAL          200  173  .536  524  467  63  15  3197  2610  3.85  1.38
ALL RANK        55   28    58   42   38  60  63    48    17    63    63
POST-WAR RANK   25   11    24   19   20  23  26    22    15    26    26

We elected Finley, and he’s probably the guy who defines where the borderline starts for me. A 3.85 ERA and 1.38 WHIP is what the 1990s AL does to a guy. But I’ve beaten this horse into and out of its seventeenth life.

Orel Hershiser

                 W    L   PCT    G   GS  CG SHO    IP     K   ERA  WHIP
TOTAL          204  150  .576  510  466  68  25  3130  2014  3.48  1.26
ALL RANK        54   18    40   44   38  60  59    50    33    55    46
POST-WAR RANK   25    6    14   20   20  23  23    23    23    24    22

You can certainly spot Hershiser some extra credit for his fantastic 1988 post-season, Hall voters are very fond of October heroics. Orel was clearly on his way to a Hall of Fame career until his arm turned to hamburger. So there’s two ways to look at the question of this generation of pitchers. Either these guys are all just missing or more mediocre than their predecessors, or they are all guys pitching under the same difficult conditions.

Rick Reuschel

                 W    L   PCT    G   GS   CG SHO    IP     K   ERA  WHIP
TOTAL          214  191  .528  557  529  102  26  3548  2015  3.37  1.27
ALL RANK        48   35    61   36   25   59  57    41    33    54    48
POST-WAR RANK   22   13    25   18   15   22  23    18    23    23    23

Here’s the imperfect storm.

  • Terrible, awful teams
  • Who, in particular, had no-good, very bad defense—Reuschel was a sinker baller
  • And who played at Wrigley Field when it was still Wrigley Field, games were played only during the day, and the Friendly Confines averaged a 107 BBREF batting park factor and a 108 pitching park factor (think of the April 17th, 1976 10-inning, 18-16 Phillies victory at the Friendly Confines that featured four Mike Schmidt homers, two by Rick Monday, and one each from three other players; or this May 17th, 1979 10-inning, 23-22 humdinger of a Phils win featuring 3 Dave Kingman homers, two each from Mike Schmidt and Bob Boone, plus four other solo blasts, including one by a pitcher).

It’s no one thing that conspired to hide Rick Reuschel’s excellence, it’s everything. But that’s not visible enough in his raw numbers to likely ever help him get a bronze likeness.

Bret Saberhagen

                 W    L   PCT    G   GS  CG SHO    IP     K   ERA  WHIP
TOTAL          167  117  .588  399  371  76  16  2562  1715  3.34  1.14
ALL RANK        60    7    36   58   52  60  62    59    44    51    17
POST-WAR RANK   25    4    13   25   24  23  25    25    25    21     6

I’m losing hope just writing this post.

Dave Stieb

                 W    L   PCT    G   GS   CG SHO    IP     K   ERA  WHIP
TOTAL          176  137  .562  443  412  103  30  2895  1669  3.44  1.25
ALL RANK        60   12    45   55   46   59  51    57    46    55    43
POST-WAR RANK   25    5    16   25   23   22  23    23    25    24    20

Ah hah! The pitcher of the 1980s! Stieb probably was, and it’s a shame he didn’t play in a bigger market, that his team was abysmal in the early stages of his career, and that a strike year ate into one of those years as well. He did have a moustache, but it wasn’t as cool as Jack Morris’.
Speaking of whom, when I run him through this same routine, we get a guy who averages 40th among all pitchers and 18th among post-war pitchers. In the latter case, it’s all the bulk stats, not the quality stats. His ERA would the worst and his WHIP third from worst, but the only one of his career numbers that would register as above average is his losses, 13th.

Luis Tiant

                 W    L   PCT    G   GS   CG SHO    IP     K   ERA  WHIP
TOTAL          229  172  .571  573  484  187  49  3486  2416  3.30  1.20
ALL RANK        44   28    43   33   31   50  21    42    23    49    35
POST-WAR RANK   19   11    16   17   17   15  11    19    18    19    19

If Luis Tiant were placed on the Modern Day ballot, he’d be pretty close to an average Hall of Fame pitcher and reasonably close to an average post-war pitcher.

So what we see here is that none of these pitchers would look good on paper to Hall voters of any stripe, but especially the VC who are even stingier than the BBWAA. I see little if any reason to believe that change is coming in how they evaluate players, let alone in the composition of that electorate. It’s still going to be Hall players and Spink winners who haven’t made the adjustment. Maybe in ten years when 1990s/2000s players and scribes come to dominate those proceedings, things will change. For now, don’t count on it.

Comparing the Halls

Last November we took a look at the HoME in comparison to other Halls. And today, as we approach our final election at the Hall of Miller and Eric, it’s time to review and in a way, reflect. We’re going to look at those Halls once again as our project comes to a conclusion. We undertook this project because the Hall of Fame is a mess. But in the process of our review and our evisceration of Hall voters, we’ve realized just how much agreement there is as far as the experts at the Hall of Fame, Hall of Stats, Hall of Merit, and Hall of Miller and Eric are concerned.

There’s agreement, but there’s plenty of disagreement too. We’ll discuss both in this post.

We Agree

As I guess we should have expected, there’s tremendous agreement among the four Halls. In two days, once our 2015 election is complete, each of the four Halls will have elected 137 of the same players. We agree on Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth, of course. And we also agree on guys close to the borderline like Jimmy Collins, Whitey Ford, and Zach Wheat. Overall we’re unanimous on 63.7% of players in the HoME, which I think is a pretty decent percentage.

We Agree on Talent

Hopefully the BBWAA lets Piazza in this year.

Hopefully the BBWAA lets Piazza in this year.

We can add eight names to those on whom we agree if we only consider talent. The Hall of Fame hasn’t elected Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Rafael Palmeiro, or Mark McGwire, though the rest of us have. Suspension, steroid use, or steroid suspicion has kept their bronze busts from being hung in Cooperstown. If they were all elected, the other Halls would match 67.4% of those in the HoME. Basically, we have unanimity in terms of talent on more than 2/3 of the HoME.

Oh, How the Hall Has Failed

There are 28 more players who have been inducted into the Halls of Stats, Merit, and Miller and Eric but not the Hall of Fame. That means there’s 80.5% agreement among those three Halls. Is there a certain type of player on whom the Hall of Fame has fanned? Sure is!

I can dream.

I can dream.

Joe Torre, 1960-1977
Dick Allen, 1963-1977
Jimmy Wynn, 1963-1977
Reggie Smith, 1966-1982
Graig Nettles, 1967-1988
Ted Simmons, 1968-1988
Darrell Evans, 1969-1989
Bobby Grich, 1970-1986
Dwight Evans, 1972-1991
Keith Hernandez, 1974-1990
Willie Randolph, 1975-1992
Lou Whitaker, 1977-1995
Alan Trammell, 1977-1996

It'll take some time, but they'll get this one right. I hope.

It’ll take some time, but they’ll get this one right. At least I hope so.

The Hall hates hitters from the 1970s, specifically hitters who were active in 1977, it would seem. And they also hate pitchers with low win totals.

Curt Schilling, 216
Rick Reuschel, 214
Kevin Brown, 211
David Cone, 194
Dave Stieb, 176
Bret Saberhagen, 167

Others they’ve whiffed on have been old guys like Charlie Bennett, Jack Glasscock, Bill Dahlen, Sherry Magee, and Wes Ferrell. They’ve also failed on hitters like Ken Boyer, Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, and Larry Walker.

Here’s the whole group.

HoME, Stats, and Merit (no Fame)   
Dick Allen	  Charlie Bennett   Ken Boyer	      Kevin Brown
David Cone	  Bill Dahlen	    Darrell Evans     Dwight Evans
Wes Ferrell	  Jack Glasscock    Bobby Grich	      Keith Hernandez
Sherry Magee	  Edgar Martinez    Graig Nettles     Tim Raines
Willie Randolph	  Rick Reuschel	    Bret Saberhagen   Curt Schilling
Ted Simmons	  Reggie Smith	    Dave Stieb	      Joe Torre
Alan Trammell	  Larry Walker	    Lou Whitaker      Jimmy Wynn

The Hall of Merit also leans away from 1970s hitters and low-win pitchers.

HoME and Stats (no Fame or Merit)                                          
Kevin Appier	  Sal Bando	  Buddy Bell	   Barry Bonds              
Willie Davis	  Chuck Finley	  Orel Hershiser   Bob Johnson
Jeff Kent	  Kenny Lofton	  Thurman Munson   Mike Mussina
Gary Sheffield	  Urban Shocker	  Sammy Sosa	   Luis Tiant

And the Hall of Merit leans away from early hitters (and 11-time All-Star catchers).

HoME and Merit (no Fame or Stats)
Ross Barnes	  Bill Freehan	  Paul Hines
Jimmy Sheckard	  George Wright	

The Hall of Fame Gets It Right!

By getting it right, I mean voting for a player the HoME supports that either the Hall of Stats or the Hall of Merit doesn’t.

It’s hard to say there’s a specific type of player on whom the Halls of Fame and Merit agree with us but Stats disagrees. But it’s clear they’re not home run hitters.

HoME, Fame, and Merit (no Stats)
Roy Campanella	   Max Carey	  Rich Gossage	   Billy Herman
Willie Keeler	   Bid McPhee	  Joe Sewell	   Monte Ward

There are only three players we’ve agreed with the Halls of Fame and Stats on but not the Hall of Merit. And John Smoltz will likely be in the Hall of Merit soon enough.

HoME, Fame, and Stats (no Merit)
John Smoltz	   Joe Tinker	  Vic Willis

And there are just two who have reached the HoME and Hall of Fame but neither of the others, both defensive stars.

HoME and Fame (no Stats or Merit)
Dave Bancroft	   Harry Hooper

The HoME Doesn’t Elect Everyone

Below are a few charts of players elected by at least two of the Halls but not elected by us. This first one is where we stand alone by rejecting the player.

Fame, Stats, and Merit (no HoME)
Jake Beckley     Larry Doby	     Harmon Killebrew
Joe Medwick      Willie Stargell     Hoyt Wilhelm

These next two have two Halls in agreement but not with the HoME. Both groups are pretty interesting.

Fame and Merit (no Stats or HoME)
Earl Averill	   Roger Bresnahan     Bobby Doerr
Rollie Fingers	   Nellie Fox	       Hughie Jennings
Joe Kelley	   Ralph Kiner	       Bob Lemon
Eppa Rixey	   Edd Roush	       Enos Slaughter
Sam Thompson
Stats and Merit (no Fame or HoME)
Will Clark	  Clark Griffith       Billy Pierce

No Support

The following charts list the players who are in only one of the Halls. Notice how many are in the Hall of Fame without the support of any other group.

Hall of Fame Only
Luis Aparicio	   Chief Bender	      Lou Brock	          Jim Bottomley
Orlando Cepeda	   Frank Chance	      Jack Chesbro	  Earle Combs
Kiki Cuyler	   Dizzy Dean	      Hugh Duffy          Johnny Evers
Lefty Gomez	   Burleigh Grimes    Chick Hafey         Jesse Haines
Waite Hoyt	   Catfish Hunter     Travis Jackson      Addie Joss
George Kell	   George Kelley      Chuck Klein         Tony Lazzeri
Fred Lindstrom	   Ernie Lombardi     Heinie Manush       Rabbit Maranville
Rube Marquard	   Bill Mazeroski     Tommy McCarthy      Herb Pennock
Tony Perez	   Kirby Puckett      Jim Rice	          Sam Rice
Phil Rizzuto	   Ray Schalk	      Red Schoendienst    Bruce Sutter
Pie Traynor	   Lloyd Waner	      Mickey Welch        Hack Wilson
Ross Youngs			

I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but the thing the players above have most in common is that they’re just not that great.

Hall of Merit Only
Pete Browning	 Bob Caruthers	    Cupid Childs      George Gore
Heinie Groh	 Stan Hack	    Charley Jones     Charlie Keller
John McGraw	 Cal McVey	    Minnie Minoso     Dickey Pearce
Lip Pike	 Hardy Richardson   Al Spalding	      Joe Start
Harry Stovey	 Ezra Sutton		

Guys in the Hall of Merit but none of the other Halls are almost exclusively older players. Of the seventeen, thirteen of them played before the mound moved in 1893. At the HoME, we’d say they’ve over-filled that era.

Hall of Stats Only                                
Babe Adams	  Tommy Bond	  Charlie Buffinton   Cesar Cedeno
Eddie Cicotte	  Tommy John	  Chet Lemon	      Jim McCormick
Tommy Mullane	  John Olerud	  Jack Quinn	      Gene Tenace
Robin Ventura	  Wilbur Wood		

Nine of the fourteen guys in the Hall of Stats but no other Hall were pitchers. Generally, they’re older pitchers. Of the hitters, not one played before 1969.

Hall of Miller and Eric Only
Jose Cruz	 Art Fletcher	  Tommy Leach	    Tony Phillips
Wally Schang	 Bobby Veach	  Bucky Walters	    Roy White

The thing that HoMErs have in common, generally, is that they played spectacular defense, particularly as rated by DRA.

Overall this has been quite an exciting project. We hope you’ll check out our last election on Friday and our last set of obituaries on Monday.


2004 HoME Election Results

Paul Molitor, magazineIn many ways our 2004 election, our 44th overall, was predictable. Vegas odds were near 100% that Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley would go in. And unless our bodies were inhabited of ghosts of BBWAA members past, Dave Stieb was a sure thing too. However, it’s the vote for Jose Cruz on his eleventh ballot that has odds makers scratching their heads a little bit.

See, Cruz isn’t in any of the Halls we follow, so he joins Tommy Leach, Bobby Veach, and Bucky Walters as four HoME members whose greatness hasn’t been recognized by others. We realize that his era remains underrepresented within our hallowed halls, and we saw room remaining in left field. Those two things combined with consistent excellence merits Cruz a vote.

With his election in addition to the three newbies to the ballot, the HoME now contains 177 of the greatest players in history, and there are only 38 spots remaining through our 2015 election. That means almost 35% of the remaining 109 players we’ll consider will one day reach the Hall of Miller and Eric.

Let’s look at our 2004 votes.

    Miller             Eric
1   Paul Molitor       Paul Molitor
2   Dennis Eckersley   Dave Stieb
3   Dave Stieb         Dennis Eckersley
4   Pud Galvin         Jose Cruz
5   Sal Bando
6   Jose Cruz

The Class of 2004

Paul Molitor: “The Ignitor” isn’t the first designated hitter elected into the HoME; over two dozen HoMErs have some experience at that “position.” But he’s the first player we’ve elected whose primary position is DH. Molitor was actually a decent defensive player who just couldn’t play the field and stay healthy simultaneously. But he could always hit. As a hitter, Molitor was something of a Derek Jeter prototype. A righty infielder who hit over .300, drew his walks, had a little pop, and ran the bases effectively. This comparison shows it well:

          AVG  lgAVG  BABIP  BB%  lgBB%  ISO  lgISO 
MOLITOR  .306  .264   .326   9.0   8.6  .142  .074  
JETER    .310  .269   .350   8.6   8.6  .130  .090

Mollie led the AL in runs and hits three times each. The seven-time All-Star and member of the 3000 hit club also won a 2B and a 3B title. In 1987 Molitor put together a 39-game hitting streak. In 1982 he was excellent in a World Series loss to the Cardinals, and then he hit .500 and won the MVP as his Blue Jays topped the Phillies in 1993. Molitor played seven years like an All-Star and another four at 4+ WAR. As the only player ever with a .300 average, 3000 hits, 500 steals, and 200 homers, he’s a very easy selection for the HoME.

Dennis Eckersley: Eck is one of our most interesting candidates ever. His motion, coming somewhere between half and three-quarters, was very deceptive, especially because he hid the ball behind his body well and relied on a late-breaking slider. There’s little doubt that he’s in the Hall of Fame because of his excellence as a reliever from 1987 through the end of his career. However, he’s in the HoME more because of his work as a starter from 1975-1986. He won 197 games and saved 390. He made two All-Star teams as a starter and another four out of the pen. In 1992, he won seven games, saved 51, and was named the AL MVP and Cy Young. He and John Smoltz are the only two players in the game’s history with 150 wins and 150 saves. Whether you think he’s a starter or a reliever, he’s one of the 50 or so best pitchers ever and very deserving of HoME induction.

Dave Stieb: It’s simply comical when someone other than Stieb is called the best pitcher of the 1980s. He was worth 10 wins more than any other pitcher for a decade. And he was worth 18 more wins than a certain pitcher who received a ton of Hall of Fame support. Stieb didn’t win as many games as some of his contemporaries, only 176 in all, but his WAR numbers are impressive indeed with three or four years of 7-win value. There are only 35 other pitchers in our data set with four such seasons. And of those, only 20 still best Stieb by their eighth best season. That’s one heck of a prime for any pitcher, regardless of the number of games he won. Of those 20 pitchers, all but one – Roger Clemens – is already in the Hall of Fame. Pretty good company. Of note, in his last two 1988 starts, here and here, he had no-hitters broken up with two out and two strikes in the ninth. Those were the second and third of four times he lost a no-hit bid in the ninth. He eventually pitched a no-no against Cleveland two years later. How many eligible 7-time All-Star pitchers are not in the Hall of Fame? Just four: Stieb, Billy Pierce, Camilo Pascual, and Lee Smith. And Stieb is noticeably better than these other guys. Stieb led the AL in pitcher WAR in 1982, 1983, and 1984. He was 2nd in 1985. He was 3rd in 1981. That’s an amazing run of dominance. You know who had a run like that? Sandy Koufax: 2nd in 1961, 1st in 1963, 2nd in 1964, 4th in 1965, 1st in 1966. Just sayin’ is all.

Jose Cruz: It’s taken us a long time to think through Cruz. There are two things that hinder analysis of his career. One is that he blossomed late, though it’s an open question whether the Cards handled him poorly early on. More important, the Astrodome distorted his statistics drastically. A corner outfielder, Cruz never topped 17 homers. He never hit higher than .318. He never slugged .500 or rolled up a .400 OBP. He never drove in 100 or scored 100. He never topped 200 hits or 40 doubles. He led the league only three times: once in hits (189 in 1983) and twice in sac flies. It was all the Astrodome. Here’s Cruz’s lifetime home/away splits:

        G     R     H     2B    3B   HR    AVG    OBP    SLG 
Home   1166  497   1094   189   61    59  .289   .366   .418
Away   1187  539   1157   202   33   106  .280   .344   .422

Pretend for a moment that the away numbers represented his true abilities. The dome took away about 50 homers and a dozen doubles and replaced them with 28 triples. If we simply doubled his road figures, he’d have finished with about 2300 hits, 400 doubles, and 212 homers. Of course, most batters do better at home than on the road. It’s not difficult to imagine Cruz doing better than those figures.

The Astrodome had another effect on Cruz as well. He had good speed, especially for a left fielder, which played up on the dome’s Astroturf surface. DRA rates him as a plus-plus defender. The problem with that from a perception standpoint is that no one really sees it. They see his batting stats and shrug but they don’t see all the runs saved with the glove. It’s a nasty double whammy for Cruz.

That said, Cruz was not a peak sensation. He played well year in and year out but never had that one glorious season that everyone remembers. I suppose the Astrodome wouldn’t let him. But he strung together a long succession of good seasons. Given the lack of depth we have so far as we try to avoid replicating the errors of the Hall in forgetting about the 1970s and 1980s, he’s a fine addition to the HoME. We could have taken the easy route and gone for Joe Kelley (yet another 1890s guy) or Joe Medwick (yet another 1930s guy) or Willie Stargell (with his abominable glove and relatively short offensive peak). This is a more thoughtful selection.

Solo Votes

Two more solo votes from Miller, so we have a couple of explanations.

Pud Galvin: He won a billion games and pitched three billion innings. That’s the basic argument.

Sal Bando: Bando is quite a bit like Jose Cruz for three reasons. First, he played during an under-represented era. Second, there’s room remaining at his position. And third, I prefer him to his competition – Heinie Groh. The difference between Bando and Cruz, is that the third sacker could lay claim to being the game’s best player for a period of time, and Cruz couldn’t.

That’s it for our 2004 results. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.

Baseball’s Dominant Pitchers

Which of these pitchers most dominated baseball?

Which of these pitchers most dominated baseball?

Not long ago when Eric and I were discussing Whitey Ford, I mentioned something like Ford was the best pitcher in the American League for an eleven-year span. Surely if you’re the best pitcher in your league for a decade, you belong in the Hall of Miller and Eric. Or do you? Since I was offering the argument, I thought I should at least make sure I believed it myself. And it turns out I don’t. From 1976-1986, the best pitcher in all of baseball was Ron Guidry. He was also the best if we add another year. So for a dozen seasons, there was no better pitcher in the game than Louisiana Lightning himself. But we understand Ron Guidry’s career. Such a run isn’t at all sufficient to make him a no-brainer HoMEr, so Ford’s lesser run shouldn’t be enough to overcome Eric’s pretty persuasive data that suggests Ford is right near the borderline.

Having the list of every pitcher who was baseball’s best over an eleven-year run got me to thinking. Who were baseball’s best pitchers every five years? How about every twenty-two? There was only one way to find out, at least as far as I knew. Open up a spreadsheet, go to, and do a ton of work. Luckily for you, my work is your reward. I found the best pitcher in 1871, then from 1871-1872, then from 1871-1873, and straight through to 1871-2013. Then I found the best pitcher in 1872, then from 1872-1873, and so on. You get the point, right?

I don’t think I’m uncovering anything groundbreaking here, but I did come up with 10,296 names. Those names are the best of the best, like Cy Young, who was listed 2,549 times. And they were guys who were good for only a short period, like Hal Carlson, who was the best pitcher in baseball by WAR in 1926 and from 1925-1926. In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t familiar with him either.

Below is a chart, a big long chart, with every pitcher whose name came up even twice in my database (ranking, pitcher, number of periods leading baseball in WAR). Take a look, and then I’ll make some comments.

1  Cy Young          2549
2  Walter Johnson    2206
3  Roger Clemens     1216
4  Tom Seaver        1102
5  Lefty Grove        856
6  Warren Spahn       674
7  Bob Gibson         174
8  Kid Nichols        112
9  Tim Keefe          108
10 Hal Newhouser       90
11 Randy Johnson       85
12 Bert Blyleven       65
13 Christy Mathewson   62
14 Bob Feller          61
   John Clarkson       61
16 Jim McCormick       60
17 Phil Niekro         57
18 Don Drysdale        56
19 Greg Maddux         50
20 Robin Roberts       47
21 Pedro Martinez      43
22 Dave Stieb          42
   Tommy Bond          42
24 Roy Halladay        40
   Dazzy Vance         40
26 Pete Alexander      37
27 Bucky Walters       27
28 Johan Santana       25
29 Al Spalding         22
30 Steve Carlton       17
31 Urban Shocker       16
32 Old Hoss Radbourn   15
   Sandy Koufax        15
34 Ed Walsh            13
35 Juan Marichal       10
36 Dwight Gooden       10
37 Rube Waddell         8
38 Amos Rusie           7
   Carl Hubbell         7
40 Jim Bunning          6
   Red Faber            6
42 Clayton Kershaw      5
   CC Sabathia          5
   Curt Schilling       5
   Wes Ferrell          5
   Gaylord Perry        5
   Justin Verlander     5
   Ron Guidry           5
   Silver King          5
50 Camilo Pascual       4
   Bob Caruthers        4
   Cliff Lee            4
   Dizzy Dean           4
   Dizzy Trout          4
   Early Wynn           4
   Jim Devlin           4
   Joe McGinnity        4
   Stan Coveleski       4
59 Bobby Mathews        3
   Fergie Jenkins       3
   Mort Cooper          3
   Ned Garver           3
   Ted Lyons            3
   Wilbur Wood          3
65 Bob Lemon            2
   Frank Tanana         2
   Hal Carlson          2
   Jim Palmer           2
   Jim Whitney          2
   Jose Rijo            2
   Mel Parnell          2
   Zack Greinke         2
74 47 tied at           1
  • It’s utterly flabbergasting that it took Bert Blyleven as long to get into the Hall as it did. I don’t think I’m revealing anything when I say it won’t take him that long to get into the HoME.
  • Dave Stieb’s name looks out of place, doesn’t it? That’s only because he played in Canada for some pretty mediocre teams and had only five playoff starts, not because he wasn’t that great. If you’re looking for the real pitcher of the 1980s, look no further. For comparison, you won’t see Jack Morris’ name anywhere on the above chart. Of course, Ed Morris was baseball’s best pitcher from 1885-1886.
  • For those who ever took part in the Roger Clemens/Greg Maddux debate like I did, we now have one data point that says it’s not even close. Clemens led baseball 1216 times, while Maddux led on just 50 occasions.
  • Don Drysdale led more frequently than Sandy Koufax. Hell, Johan Santana led more than Koufax. I think we forget how great Santana was.
  • I would have predicted a higher number for Steve Carlton. But with the likes of Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, and Bert Blyleven as contemporaries, there wasn’t a whole lot of room.
  • You might notice that Whitey Ford’s name is nowhere to be found. He was never baseball’s best pitcher, though Russ Ford was in 1910.

There’s a lot more that can be said about the chart, no doubt. Hopefully I’ll use parts of it in future conversations to help to establish who belongs in the HoME. But for now, I’m happy to know that eleven seasons as the best in your league isn’t enough by itself to earn my vote.


Institutional History

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