Monday, January 09, 2006

Blyleven Blues To End?

With the latest Cooperstown balloting due tomorrow, early indications are that Bert Blyleven should jump well up the rankings, and perhaps even make it into the Hall.

Seven of ESPN’s ten accredited voters cast their ballots for Blyleven. Others agree. Those who hold out 300 wins as the gold standard remain to be converted.

Every balloter I’ve read online supported Goose Gossage, who seems a shoe-in.

Among the best of the Blyleven converts is Jayson Stark, who captured the absurdity of the nine-year ballot wait: “You would think a man with 287 wins, and more strikeouts than all but four pitchers who ever lived, would be an easy guy to vote for.”

Blyleven’s exclusion is so baffling to me that I find it difficult to make his case. Something beyond the numbers must have prevented baseball writers from showing their support.

But since the Hall is all about numbers, here are the key stats: since 1900, Bert Blyleven ranks 5th in career strikeouts (3,701), 8th in shutouts (60), and 17th in wins (287).

His endurance is legendary: 13th in innings pitched all-time (4,970), and pitcher of 242 complete games. He won two World Series, with a 5-1 playoff record, and holds a career ERA of 3.31. Seven times he topped 260 innings.

Just as important as Blyleven’s numbers are those of his peers: virtually every pitcher to reach his level of performance has been inducted into the Hall. Among eligible players, the Hall includes:
• All members of the 3,000 strikeout club, except Blyleven
• All of the top 20 in games pitched, except Blyleven
• All of the top 20 in shutouts, except Blyleven

Jayson Stark found convincing Bill James’ write-up in the 2006 Hardball Times annual, as did I. (The Annual made great Christmas reading, and is a sure cure for the January blues.) And Stark makes a solid comparison of Blyleven to his generational peers:
First, if you compare Blyleven to his fellow pitchers of the division-play era, he high-jumps off the page. He ranks No. 1 in complete games, No. 2 in shutouts (one behind Nolan Ryan), No. 2 in innings pitched (again trailing only Ryan), No. 5 in whiffs and No. 6 in wins (behind only Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers).

…According to that encyclopedia, Blyleven allowed 344 fewer runs in his career than the average pitcher of his day. In the live-ball era, only eight pitchers have done better in that department. And those eight comprise a group that essentially consists of the best modern pitchers who ever threw a baseball: Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Seaver, Carl Hubbell and Bob Gibson.
For those not yet convinced, Rich Lederer’s December Hall of Fame Case for Bert Blyleven has more.

I’m sold. Tomorrow we find out if the writers were.


At 8:28 PM, Blogger Alex said...

If you scroll down to theAppearances on Leaderboards and Awards section of this page, you see how he was often in the top 5 or 10 in Cy Young voting and statistical categories, but finished a top key categories only a couple of times. Voters tend to reward players who were at the top of the game, at least for a brief period. Second, he pitched for 22 years, so there's a misconception that he piled up his numbers more because of longevity than because of ability. So there's two things working against his candidacy.

That being said, those arguments are bunk, and he should be in the Hall of Fame. How Phil Niekro, who you could make the same case against, is in the Hall and Bert isn't is beyond me.

At 10:24 AM, Blogger Alex said...

As for the ESPN ballots, who the heck is Michael Knisely and how does he get to vote for the Hall? Giving a vote to Albert Belle but not Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris etc. is unbelievable. If having a ten year career, and putting up 5-6 impressive statistical years in the juiced ball era is enough to get this guy's vote, who isn't he going to vote for from the '90s? I bet you he's licking his chops for the 2014 ballot, when he can finally vote for Luis Gonzales.


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