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Fortune and Fame

August 9, 2017
  

2017-36

Fortune and Fame

 

         "Fortune" meaning luck, and "Fame" meaning the Hall of Fame. 

              We have two basic questions here:

              1)  What pitchers got into the Hall of Fame substantially because of good luck? And

              2)  What pitchers may have missed the Hall of Fame substantially because of poor luck?  

             

              There are 82 pitchers who are in the Hall of Fame.     However, of those 82 pitchers: 

              Ten were primarily Negro League pitchers, whose records we cannot evaluate,

              Four were primarily relievers, not including Dennis Eckersley, who we will keep in the fold at least for the moment; this article is about starting pitchers, and

              Five were elected as executives (Clark Griffith, Al Spalding), umpires (Hank O’Day), pitch inventors (Candy Cummings) or infielders and managers (Monte Ward), so we won’t worry about them. 

              That leaves us with 63 Hall of Fame pitchers, elected as pitchers and documented with stats.  

              Of those 63 Hall of Fame pitchers, 38 had better career won-lost records than their deserved won-lost records, although in some cases only a tiny bit better.   Cy Young, for example, has an actual won-lost record of 511-316, and a "deserved" record of 509-319, which is about the same.   Steve Carlton has an actual record of 329-244, and a deserved record of 337-258, and Sandy Koufax has an actual record of 165-87, but a deserved record of 167-98.    There are 25 Hall of Fame pitchers who were, as best I can figure this, actually BETTER than their career won-lost records, including a couple of surprises.    38-25.

              The 63 Hall of Fame pitchers can be sorted into five classes:

              1)  Obvious Hall of Famers,

              2)  Perhaps not obvious, but deserving Hall of Famers who didn’t get there by luck,

              3)  Guys who were lucky, I think, but the luck didn’t have anything much to do with the won-lost record,

              4)  Guys who were a little bit lucky in the won-lost category, I think, but it’s a debatable point whether this is what got them into the Hall of Fame, and

              5)  Guys who pretty clearly made the Hall of Fame based on won-lost records that probably do not quite represent their actual ability.

 

1)  Obvious Hall of Famers

              By my count, 30 of the 63 Hall of Fame pitchers are too obvious for us to waste any time talking about them.    Those 30 are, alphabetically, Pete Alexander, Steve Carlton, John Clarkson, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, Pud Galvin, Bob Gibson, Tom Glavine, Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, Ferguson Jenkins, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson, Tim Keefe, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Christy Mathewson, Kid Nichols, Phil Niekro, Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry, Eddie Plank, Old Hoss Radbourn, Robin Roberts, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Warren Spahn, Don Sutton and Cy Young.  

2)  Perhaps not obvious, but deserving Hall of Famers who didn’t get there by luck

              By my count, there are 17 of these.   Most of those, 14 of the 17, were actually pitchers who were UN-lucky in their career won-lost records, and in many cases their selection to the Hall of Fame was delayed because they did not have quite the won-lost records they deserved.   I will mention 12 of those quickly, and then we will get to the other six individually.  The 12 who were actually better than their won-lost records were Bert Blyleven, Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, Dennis Eckersley, Red Faber, Ted Lyons, Hal Newhouser, Eppa Rixey, Dazzy Vance, Rube Waddell, Ed Walsh and Vic Willis.  

              Plus two that you might not expect.   The two you might not expect are Red Ruffing and John Smoltz.  

              I am very, very surprised to see that Red Ruffing, who was the #1 right-hander for the Yankees of the late 1930s, was actually NOT lucky in his career won-lost record; however, I am now convinced that this statement is true, and I will stand by it.   The Yankees averaged 102 wins a season from 1936 to 1939, and Ruffing went 20-12, 20-7, 21-7 and 21-7 for those teams, so I would certainly have assumed that the team was carrying Ruffing more than that Ruffing was actually a great pitcher.  

              But Ruffing had a career won-lost record of 273-225—and a DESERVED career won-lost record of 276-225, actually a tiny bit better than his real record.   In the years 1936 to 1939, Ruffing did not "deserve" to win 20 games.   His deserved records were 19-12, 19-10, 19-10 and 19-8.   So, yeah, the team was helping him, but Ruffing was also pretty good.  

              But Ruffing was also a rotation anchor for the Boston Red Sox from 1925 to 1929, and our records in those five seasons were 47-105, 46-107, 51-103, 57-96 and 58-96.     If you add in the four years with the Yankees 1936-1939, that doesn’t get him back to even.    Ruffing was traded to the Yankees in 1930, but in his first six years with the Yankees (1930 to 1935) the Yankees won the American League pennant only once.  

              Ruffing’s luckiest two seasons, in his won-lost record, were 1941, when he was 15-6 but should have been 11-10 (+8), and 1932, when he was 19-11 but should have been 15-15 (+7.5).   But from 1925 to 1929 he was -7.2, -8.5, -6.4, -16.5, and -9.6.   He had three seasons which were more un-lucky than any of his seasons was lucky.  In 1928 he was a workhorse, and should have been 17-16, but was actually 10-25 (-16.5).   In 1929 he should have been 12-16, but was actually 9-22.    On balance, he WASN’T lucky.   On balance, he was about where he should have been.

              The other guy like that is John Smoltz; your instinct is to think "John Smoltz—great Braves teams—some luck there."   But

              (a) Smoltz pitched in rotation for the Braves for three years when they were a last-place team, 1988 to 1990,

              (b) The Braves were a great team, yes, but what made them a great team was their starting rotation.   They had some good players in their starting lineup, yes, and then they had some Mark Lemkes and some Michael Tuckers and some Jeff Francoeurs and some Sid Breams and some Robert Ficks and some Greg Olsons and Jeff Treadways. 

              (c)  You have to remember:  Smoltz was a reliever for several years.    He was 0-2 in 2003 when, based on his innings and effectiveness, he should have been 7-1.   He was 0-1 the next year, when he could have been 7-3.  

              On balance, Smoltz’ deserved won-lost record (247-154) is quite a bit better than his actual won-lost record of 213-155.   I think the voters knew that, and I think they viewed his won-lost record—like Eckersley’s—as not a full picture of what he had accomplished.  

 

              There are three pitchers who. . .well, yes, they were lucky in their won-lost records, but they were also really good and they didn’t get into the Hall of Fame because they were lucky.   Two of those were Three Finger Brown and Amos Rusie, no comments necessary on those.    The other one is Waite Hoyt.   Like Ruffing, I am very surprised that Waite Hoyt didn’t benefit more than he did by pitching much of his career with the Yankees, but (a) he pitched ten years with the Yankees in a twenty-year career, and (b) my analysis does not show him to be all that far ahead of where he deserved to be.   He had a career won-lost record of 237-182, and a deserved won-lost record of 236-198.   There was a little bit of luck there, yes, but when you win 237 games and deserve to win 236, one can’t really say that luck was the key element.  

 

              3)  Guys who were lucky, I think, but the luck didn’t have anything much to do with the won-lost record

              I think there are three of these—Rube Marquard, Stan Coveleski and Addie Joss.   I don’t think any of those guys deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, and I think they are lucky to be included, but it’s not really "won-lost luck"; it’s mostly luck of a different kind.   Marquard was 201-177 in his career, probably deserved to be 199-177, which is almost the same.   Joss was 160-97, probably deserved to be 159-104.   Coveleski was 215-142, probably deserved to be 209-145.  

 

              4)  Guys who were a little bit lucky in the won-lost category, I think, but it’s a debatable point, and maybe they would have made the Hall of Fame playing on average teams.     Those four are Lefty Gomez, Juan Marichal, Joe McGinnity and Mickey Welch.    If you can figure out this chart on your own, that would save me the trouble of explaining it:

First

Last

Won

Lost

WPct

 

DW

DL

DWpct

Margin

Luck

Mickey

Welch

309

211

.594

 

283

257

.524

.070

71.7

Juan

Marichal

243

142

.631

 

228

171

.571

.060

44.4

Joe

McGinnity

246

142

.634

 

225

162

.581

.053

41.0

Lefty

Gomez

189

102

.649

 

173

116

.600

.050

29.4

             

              Mickey Welch in his career would be the luckiest pitcher in baseball history, except that I devalued the scores of 19th century pitchers.   You have to devalue the scores of 19th century pitchers, or they dominate everything; whatever you are figuring, the greatest ever or the worst ever will be a 19th century guy.    You can’t take their records all that seriously.   You can argue that these four guys wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for their won-lost records, but you know. . .you can argue it either way.  

 

              5)  Guys who pretty clearly made the Hall of Fame based on won-lost records that probably do not quite represent their actual ability.

              OK, we have accounted for 54 of the 63 Hall of Fame pitchers are this point.   That leaves nine.   There are nine guys who, in my opinion, pretty clearly would not be in the Hall of Fame, had they been evaluated based on the won-lost records they deserved to have, rather than the Won-Lost records they wound up with.   Taking those one at a time:

 

1.  Chief Bender

              These are Chief Bender’s actual and deserved won-lost records.  

 

Year

W

L

Des Wins

Des Loss

1903

17

14

16

14

1904

10

11

11

12

1905

18

11

12

13

1906

15

10

13

14

1907

16

8

16

9

1908

8

9

9

6

1909

18

8

18

10

1910

23

5

19

10

1911

17

5

16

9

1912

13

8

12

7

1913

21

10

16

11

1914

17

3

13

7

1915

4

16

9

11

1916

7

7

4

10

1917

8

2

9

4

1925

0

0

0

0

 

212

127

193

147

 

              Bender was a good pitcher, certainly, but he was a good pitcher pitching for really good teams.   His won-lost records are not wildly inflated, but he’s kind of a border-line selection even WITH the help.   Without it, I don’t think he would have made it.

              But I could be wrong.   Dazzy Vance, Jack Chesbro and Rube Waddell did make the Hall of Fame with won-lost records similar to what Bender’s should have been.   But Bender, without luck, would never have had a 20-win season. 

 

2.  Jack Chesbro

Year

W

L

Des Wins

Des Loss

1899

6

9

7

9

1900

15

13

12

12

1901

21

10

20

13

1902

28

6

21

12

1903

21

15

20

17

1904

41

12

34

18

1905

19

15

17

17

1906

23

17

21

16

1907

10

10

12

11

1908

14

20

14

19

1909

0

5

1

5

 

198

132

179

148

 

              Chesbro made the Hall of Fame, of course, primarily because he "won"" 41 games in 1904.   It’s a completely phony record on multiple counts, but if had won the 34 games that year that he deserved to win. . . .don’t think he would be in there.

 

3.  Dizzy Dean

Year

W

L

Des Wins

Des Loss

1930

1

0

1

0

1932

18

15

19

14

1933

20

18

19

14

1934

30

7

25

11

1935

28

12

23

14

1936

24

13

21

15

1937

13

10

14

9

1938

7

1

6

3

1939

6

4

6

5

1940

3

3

2

4

1941

0

0

0

0

1947

0

0

0

0

 

150

83

138

89

 

              Dizzy was a really good pitcher, but he wasn’t any better pitcher than Wes Ferrell or Lon Warneke.   What got him into the Hall of Fame was (1) he was really colorful, (2) he won 30 games, and (3) Hollywood made a movie about him.    His career was really short for a Hall of Famer, and if you take any one of those away from him, he doesn’t make it.  

 

4.  Burleigh Grimes

Year

W

L

Des Wins

Des Loss

1916

2

3

3

3

1917

3

16

8

14

1918

19

9

17

13

1919

10

11

7

13

1920

23

11

22

13

1921

22

13

21

14

1922

17

14

13

17

1923

21

18

20

18

1924

22

13

17

19

1925

12

19

12

17

1926

12

13

13

13

1927

19

8

16

14

1928

25

14

23

16

1929

17

7

16

11

1930

16

11

12

11

1931

17

9

13

12

1932

6

11

7

10

1933

3

7

4

6

1934

4

5

2

4

 

270

212

245

236

 

              The most notable beneficiary of the rule which allowed a few pitchers to continue to throw the spitball after 1920, Grimes appears to have benefitted not so much from being on great teams as from simple, uncomplicated luck.   It doesn’t even out over time.   Grimes wasn’t much more than an average pitcher—in a very long career, but would he have gotten elected with a record of 245-236? 

 

5.  Jesse Haines

Year

W

L

Des Wins

Des Loss

1918

0

0

0

0

1920

13

20

16

19

1921

18

12

14

14

1922

11

9

11

10

1923

20

13

15

15

1924

8

19

12

14

1925

13

14

12

12

1926

13

4

12

9

1927

24

10

22

13

1928

20

8

15

12

1929

13

10

9

12

1930

13

8

11

10

1931

12

3

8

6

1932

3

5

4

5

1933

9

6

7

6

1934

4

4

6

4

1935

6

5

8

6

1936

7

5

6

5

1937

3

3

3

4

 

210

158

192

178

 

              Jesse Haines is in the Hall of Fame because he invented underwear.   No, seriously, he is in the Hall of Fame because (1) he was a hero of the 1926 World Series, and also pitched a complete-game victory in the 1930 World Series, and (2) he had former teammates on the Veterans Committee in 1970.   But had he been working with the won-lost record that he should have had, it would have been very difficult for his buddies to pull him over the line.  

             

6.   Catfish Hunter

 

Year

W

L

Des Wins

Des Loss

1965

8

8

6

9

1966

9

11

8

12

1967

13

17

16

14

1968

13

13

12

15

1969

12

15

13

15

1970

18

14

14

16

1971

21

11

17

14

1972

21

7

21

13

1973

21

5

13

16

1974

25

12

23

13

1975

23

14

23

14

1976

17

15

17

17

1977

9

9

6

10

1978

12

6

7

7

1979

2

9

5

7

 

224

166

201

192

 

              I adore Catfish Hunter, and it pains me greatly to put him on this list.   I would leave him off the list, but other people do sabermetrics, too, and they would rat me out.  

 

7.  Bob Lemon

Year

W

L

Des Wins

Des Loss

1946

4

5

5

6

1947

11

5

10

10

1948

20

14

21

13

1949

22

10

19

13

1950

23

11

17

16

1951

17

14

15

15

1952

22

11

20

15

1953

21

15

17

15

1954

23

7

17

12

1955

18

10

12

12

1956

20

14

17

12

1957

6

11

5

8

1958

0

1

1

2

 

207

128

177

148

 

              The Indians in the Bob Feller/Bob Lemon/Mike Garcia era had very low park factors (1946-73; 1947-87; 1948-90; 1949-87; 1950-88; 1951-80; 1952-76).   The sportswriters of that era did not understand that, and attributed ALL of the success of that team to the pitching, when in reality it was shared excellence of pitchers and hitters.   Lemon was a good pitcher, but not a legitimate Hall of Famer, I don’t think.  

              But Lemon was a very good manager, and he had one of the game’s all-time best lines.   "I never took the game home with me," he said.   "I always left it in a bar somewhere on the road."      

 

8.  Herb Pennock

 

Year

W

L

Des Wins

Des Loss

1912

1

2

2

3

1913

2

1

1

3

1914

11

4

9

8

1915

3

6

2

5

1916

0

2

1

2

1917

5

5

6

6

1919

16

8

14

11

1920

16

13

15

13

1921

12

14

13

12

1922

10

17

11

12

1923

19

6

16

10

1924

21

9

21

12

1925

16

17

19

13

1926

23

11

16

15

1927

19

8

14

10

1928

17

6

15

9

1929

9

11

8

10

1930

11

7

8

10

1931

11

6

12

10

1932

9

5

7

10

1933

7

4

3

5

1934

2

0

4

3

 

240

162

217

192

 

              Pennock was 19-8 with the ’27 Yankees, probably should have been 14-10.  In 21 years in the major leagues, Pennock had "+" luck 16 times.   It adds up.  

 

9.  Early Wynn

Year

W

L

Des Wins

Des Loss

1939

0

2

1

1

1941

3

1

3

2

1942

10

16

8

14

1943

18

12

16

14

1944

8

17

11

13

1946

8

5

6

7

1947

17

15

14

15

1948

8

19

9

14

1949

11

7

9

10

1950

18

8

15

10

1951

20

13

18

13

1952

23

12

17

16

1953

17

12

14

15

1954

23

11

19

12

1955

17

11

16

10

1956

20

9

21

11

1957

14

17

14

16

1958

14

16

13

14

1959

22

10

16

14

1960

13

12

14

13

1961

8

2

7

5

1962

7

15

8

11

1963

1

2

4

2

 

300

244

273

250

 

              The Hall of Fame door sprang open for Early when he won his 300th game, but he might have made the Hall of Fame with 290 wins, or 285.   With 273 wins and only 23 games over .500, he might not have made it, and then also, he was extremely fortunate to go 22-10 in his Cy Young season, 1959.    Given average luck, it seems to me doubtful that the Hall of Fame would have called his number.  

 

              Tomorrow, or in the next installment of this, I will write about pitchers who could possibly have made the Hall of Fame, given better luck.   But because I don’t want that article to be a disappointment to you, I want to say this now.   I don’t believe that there is any such thing as a pitcher who clearly would be in the Hall of Fame, had his luck been better.   I have searched baseball history for such a creature; I have not found one.  

              In the next article, I’ll try to explain why that is true, and also, I’ll look at the best candidates to be described in that way, the guys who, I suppose, COULD be in the Hall of Fame, had they had better luck.  

 

 
 

COMMENTS (22 Comments, most recent shown first)

billsizer
Although I agree Dizzy Dean is fortunate to be in the Hall, I also agree with someone who said, "How can you have a Hall of Fame without Dizzy Dean?" Ole Diz also exemplified baseball for me as a kid in his role as a broadcaster.
10:07 AM Aug 14th
 
BobGill
I see the title has prompted two Dylan-related comments, but I don't think it's a Dylan reference at all. First of all, the line in question says "... it's EITHER fortune OR fame," but here it's fortune AND fame, which is a different thing. Second, "fame and fortune" is a common phrase, since long before Bob Dylan came along. In this case, I think Bill just reversed the usual order because he's writing about fortune, i.e. luck, and how it relates to the Hall of Fame, so that's a better way to put it for his purposes. If he ever sees these comments, he can settle the issue one way or another, but until then, my vote says he wasn't thinking of Dylan here.
9:36 PM Aug 11th
 
KaiserD2
Steve,

You are absolutely right that Jeter is going in the Hall on the first try (I said that in my book too). One could--and Bill did, decades ago--create a set of formulas that predicted who would be in the Hall of Fame, which would be a very different set of formulas from any designed to identify the greatest players. All I'm trying to do is to get people to think in a more sophisticated fashion about who really belongs. 35 years ago Bill complained, rightly, that there were too many players from the 1920s-1930s in the Hall because of high batting averages in that era. I suspect that 40 years from now when Bill and I are long gone, some bright young man is going to make the same point about players from the 1990s, who will go in because of their homer totals even though their impact wasn't that great.

By the way, I finally read through Bill's method and it does look as if it should control for the offensive power of the pitcher's team, although I'm not sure it would do the same for fielding. And yet I still think his method was very kind to Yankees.​
7:07 PM Aug 11th
 
sayhey
Think I finally get the title reference here: you must pick one or the other, though neither of them are to be what they claim.
2:01 PM Aug 11th
 
steve161
David, I'm familiar with your argument and don't disagree. I'm simply saying that, while it is an excellent way of evaluating players, it doesn't have a lot to do with who gets into the Hall of Fame. Derek Jeter is a perfect example (Craig Biggio no less so, but pointing it out in his case doesn't raise as many hackles): WAA suggests that he is seriously overrated, and I'm not prepared to argue that that is wrong. But he's going to cruise into the Hall, and I don't know of anybody who thinks he shouldn't.​
7:32 AM Aug 11th
 
JackKeefe
Riceman,

In retrospect, it may seem like Eddie Plank was the Athletic's Ace during their great 1910-13 run, given his career win totals. That's not how it was viewed at the time. The game 1 pitcher for all three World Series (1910, 1911, 1913) was Chief Bender. Plank started Game 2.
9:01 PM Aug 10th
 
Riceman1974
Covelski was never regarded as a dominant pitcher in his time. The general opinion of him is that he was a solid, good pitcher, but certainly not among the best in the game. Covy's high WAA numbers may just be a glarifying example of the unreliability of WAR as the end all be all of statistical analysis. Also, which version of WAA/WAR are you using, FanGraphs or BBall Ref? They have huge differences in method for calculating pitcher value.
7:28 PM Aug 10th
 
KaiserD2
To Steve161:

My argument is based on the idea that great players help their teams win more games, and thus, pennants. Some one with 5 seasons of 4 WAA or more has indisputably done that. My point is that there are players with 3000 hits who have not had that impact. Derek Jeter never cracked the 4 WAA barrier and Craig Biggio did it once. Biggio, Rickey Henderson and Rod Carew have almost exactly the same number of hits--3053-3060--but Biggio has 1 4 WAA season, Carew 6, and Rickey 12. That's just one example of how misleading lifetime stats can be. I'm not arguing against any fixed statistical standard, I'm just asking how meaningful particular stats (particularly lifetiome ones) really are.

There is a real question of how valuable 10 years of average pitching from the same guy is (over 200 innings a year.) It is certainly worth something, yes, but you will need much better players than that to win you the pennant.

DK
1:45 PM Aug 10th
 
raincheck
So Bill has disproven Dylan's immortal verse.

Catfish
Million dollar man
Nobody can throw the ball
Like Catfish can

It seems Catfish may have had a few peers.​
1:34 PM Aug 10th
 
steve161
David,

The article just below this one explains Bill's methodology.

As to the rest: note that the Hall of Fame's election rules specify that "No automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted."

I understand this to mean that reaching or exceeding a statistical threshold should not, in and of itself, determine HOF-worthiness. Even those numbers that in the past have seemed to confer automatic election, like 3000 hits or 500 home runs, no longer do so: Rafael Palmeiro is the obvious case-in-point.

By this reasoning, five seasons of four WAA, while strongly indicative, should be neither necessary nor sufficient for election. Nor should any other number.
11:22 AM Aug 10th
 
KaiserD2
To begin with, I still have not seen in this series anywhere where Bill explained exactly how he is computing deserved won-loss record. If I missed it I would appreciate someone pointing it out.

My own evaluations, as I have explained, are based on how many seasons a guy had of 4 WAA or more although for pitchers in some eras you have to go down to 3 WAA to get meaningful comparisons. Now for hitters I have a pretty solid measurement of what a Hall of Famer is by that method--5 seasons of 4 WAA or more. But for pitchers that standard is much too high to be useful and I didn't try to define a new one. Everything boils down to comparisons.

I'm not going to go through this whole list I will make a few comments.

To begin with, four pitchers who are extremely similar by my method are Sandy Koufax, Rube Waddell, Dizzy Dean and Dazzy Vance. Koufax, Vance and Waddell all had 4 seasons over 4 WAA (and Wadell's were better than Koufax's); Dean had 3. Vance, by the way, is one of the most bizarre pitchers in baseball history because he got going so late in life. Anyway, I don't see how there can be any question about Vance and Waddell being in the Hall along with Koufax, and I don't think there's really anything questionable about Dean's selection as well even if he wasn't quite as good.

Stanley Covaleski, on the other hand, was better than any of these guys, with five such seasons, and that makes him a very over-qualified Hall of Famer for me. I don't see how he can be put in the same category as Marquard who was over 4 WAA just twice.

Now my next comment is that I don't think Bill is correcting sufficiently for the effects of pitching for the New York Yankees. Ruffing by my calculations was over 4 WAA only once and over 3 WAA just 2 more times. Gomez was better--he was over 4 WAA twice and over 2 two more times. Waite Hoyt, as I recall, was certainly no better than Ruffing. These guys were very durable and pitched for the most dominant team in the history of baseball. That, to me, is why they were in the Hall. Pennock was better than any of them and is more deserving.

I agree about Bob Lemon as I have already indicated. Incidentally, the answer to the question, how did he get into the Hall, is really quite simple. His candidacy wasn't going anywhere until he got back into baseball as a manager, first with the Royals, then with the White Sox and Yankees. The writers got to know him and like him and voted him in. Post-career work in baseball has gotten several people into the Hall, too. I did find, though, that Wynn was measurably better than Lemon at his peak--that surprised me--and is a more deserving candidate,. although Wynn's last big season in 1959 was very lucky.

To repeat where I started in this discussion, a pitcher's won-loss record is a function of how many runs his team scores and how many it allows, and of luck. He has almost no influence on how many runs his team scores (and none in the post-1972 AL), and he has less total influence on how many runs his team allows (fielding plays a role), and he has no influence on luck. So clearly the pitcher's ability determines less than 50% of his won-loss record and that's why I personally don't think we should use won-loss record to try to measure the best pitchers at all.

David K




8:25 AM Aug 10th
 
Riceman1974
Eddie Plank was the ace of the A's staff 1910-1914, not Bender, and was widely regarded as such. Bender was the clear no. 2.

Still, Bender's team's success is why he's in the Hall, while Plank would likely have gotten in regardless. Bill, what was Plank's deserved won-loss?
3:53 AM Aug 10th
 
JackKeefe
Chief Bender and Catfish Hunter are very similar pitchers in one important respect---they were the aces of great Athletics dynasties. Between 1910-1913, the Philadelphia Athletics won the World Series 3 times with Bender as their ace. Between 1972-1974, the Oakland A's won the World Series 3 times with Hunter as their ace. For teams not named the New York Yankees, such dominance is extremely rare. Now you might say that their win totals were inflated by pitching for championship teams, but you also might say that those teams wouldn't have won championships without their key contributions. If one of the purposes of the Hall of Fame (not Hall of Wins, or god help us, Wins Above Replacement) is to shine a light on key figures in baseball history, Bender and Hunter deserve their plaques.
9:10 PM Aug 9th
 
bjames
The key to Bob Lemon's election is actually really simple. It's 20-win seasons. Historically, 20-win seasons are every bit as much a separator among Hall of Fame candidates as are career wins. Basically, if you win 20 games five times, you're in. If you win 20 games four times or less, you're not in, or you have to get in some other way.

Among pitchers retiring in 1930 or later, there are 21 pitchers who won 20 games five times or more. 19 of the 21 are in the Hall of Fame, the exceptions being Roger Clemens and Wes Ferrell, both of whom were excluded for having too many "e's" and "r's" in their names. Anyway, with SEVEN 20-win seasons, Lemon is in the top one-third of that group. Only six pitchers retiring since 1930 have 7 20-win seasons: Warren Spahn, Pete Alexander, Lefty Grove, Jim Palmer, Ferguson Jenkins and Bob Lemon. All are in the Hall of Fame.

On the other hand, MANY pitchers with four 20-win Seasons are not in the Hall of Fame: Dave Stewart, Mike Cuellar, Luis Tiant, Wilbur Wood, Dave McNally, Johnny Sain, Paul Derringer, Wilbur Cooper, Urban Shocker. It's a key to Catfish, too. Five 20-win seasons.
5:34 PM Aug 9th
 
Manushfan
I am surprised to see Bill has come around more on Rixey, Vic Willis and Red Faber. I seem to remember he wasn't that high on their being in the Hall. He had his reasons yes I know. Rixey esp. is the name I thought would be lower here. Very interesting.
4:49 PM Aug 9th
 
DaveNJnews
I am wondering what made Bob Lemon such a strong Hall of Fame candidate in the first place that he got voted in by the BBWAA.

Trying to think like a voter might have in 1976, I look at it this way: A total of 207 wins is not such a huge total - at the time, he was tied with Hal Newhouser (not yet in) and Carl Mays (not in). He was extremely durable, so he racked up a lot of innings, but his other stats like ERA and strikeouts are not spectacular. He won no major awards, finishing no higher than fifth in MVP voting. His World Series record was 2-2.

Was there a mystique about him that, from this distance, is no longer evident?
4:48 PM Aug 9th
 
sayhey
The luckiest pitcher ever is Justin Verlander. No stats, formulas, or explanation necessary.
12:55 PM Aug 9th
 
CharlesSaeger
5. Dean was a fairly good hitter.
6. That movie was really bad.
9:41 AM Aug 9th
 
3for3
4. Dean got in partly because of his nickname. How great was the A's starting lineup to make Catfish, and presumably the rest of the rotation look so good?
7:54 AM Aug 9th
 
Steven Goldleaf
And thanks for sparing us the rest of the Dylan line, which features the most tortured syntax of his water-boarding syntactical career: "you must choose one or the other, though neither of them are to be what they claim."
7:31 AM Aug 9th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Wow, Catfish looks pretty weak by this measure: he was perceived as extraordinary only during the A's dominance in the early 70s, and his strongest season there was (probably) 1973, when he went 21-5, and it deserved to be a very weak 13-16. Outside of the early 70s, he was struggling, so his HoF case is based almost exclusively on '71-75, which makes him into another Dizzy Dean, a brief peak that wasn't as good as it appeared. Speaking of Dean, are you perhaps going to run down pitchers who had 25+ wins after 1930? Seems to me that many if not most famous big-win seasons (Welch, McLain, Dean, Marichal) get punctured pretty badly by this metric.
6:57 AM Aug 9th
 
JohnPontoon
As always, Bill, thank you for doing what you do.
6:34 AM Aug 9th
 
 
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