The Could Be Hall of Famers

August 10, 2017
 2017-37

The Could Be Hall of Famers

              As I mentioned yesterday, I do not believe that there is any such thing in baseball history as a pitcher who missed out on the Hall of Fame because he pitched his career in tough luck.    There are certainly many, many pitchers who missed the Hall of Fame by bad luck of one kind or another—Johan Santana, for example, and Herb Score and Doc Gooden and Jim Maloney and J. R. Richard, and Monte Stratton and Carl Mays and Tom Cheney.  There are many, many kinds of bad luck in the world, but we are talking here about a particular kind of bad luck, the bad luck of pitching well but not getting a win.   The bad luck of not having the won-lost records that you deserve, so people never realize that you are as good as you are.   There isn’t any such animal as a Hall of Fame pitcher who missed the Hall of Fame by THAT kind of bad luck.  

              Well. . .but how can that be true?   If there are pitchers who got into the Hall of Fame because of this kind of good luck, don’t there have to be pitchers who got left out for the same reason?   How is that possible?

              It is possible for two reasons, or maybe three.  

              First, pitchers do not pitch their entire careers for bad teams.   When a young pitcher comes to the majors and is effective while pitching for a non-competitive team, he is then traded to a competitive team, or else the team gets good, or he goes to a good team as a free agent, or something happens to get him to a good team. This is true now; it was true 125 years ago.   It has always been true.   It is not true 50% of the time or 60% or 70%; it is true 90% of the time or more.    Good young pitchers just don’t stay with bad teams.  Red Ruffing, John Smoltz, Chris Sale, Carlos Quintana, Three Finger Brown, Don Larsen, Max Scherzer, Sonny Gray, Tom Seaver; that’s the way it is.  The good pitchers gather on the league’s best teams.  

              There ARE some good young pitchers with bad teams who get over-worked by those bad teams, blow out their arms and immediately disappear.   That happened to Glen Hobbie in 1960, for example, and it still happens now.   But that, again, is a different kind of luck.   But for a young pitcher to get stuck with a bad team and just stay there and stay there. . . .it almost never happens.  

              Second—this is the speculative one—a pitcher may get stuck with bad teams, sometimes, but the Hall of Fame voters may perceive that this has happened, and may elect him to the Hall of Fame anyway.    Ted Lyons, for example, did kind of get stuck with bad teams, and he did wind up with a won-lost record that was a little bit short of what he deserved, but the Hall of Fame voters elected him anyway.   Eppa Rixey, same thing; he pitched for a lot of bad teams and wound up his career just 266-251, but he was actually better than that, and he got elected to the Hall of Fame anyway.    Or the pitcher may be SO good, like Ferguson Jenkins or Walter Johnson, that the fact that he pitches for bad teams just doesn’t matter.  

              Third, I said that there are no pitchers who would be in the Hall of Fame if they had AVERAGE luck, but I didn’t say that there were no un-lucky pitchers who would be in the Hall of Fame if they had had GOOD luck. 

              OK, let’s look at the 12 pitchers who might be in the Hall of Fame, with better luck.   They are ranked by a combination of their bad luck, and their Hall of Fame credentials as I might guess them to be, with better luck:

 

1)  Curt Schilling.   Of course, stating the obvious:

              1)  Curt Schilling might be in the Hall of Fame anyway,

              2)  Schilling almost certainly WILL be in the Hall of Fame within a few years, and

              3)  What is keeping him out, for now, is mostly his own behavior.  

              I don’t think you can say that Schilling has been "left out" of the Hall of Fame; he just hasn’t been elected yet.  But Schilling has a career won-lost record of 216-146, and I think that many voters may not realize that he was actually quite a bit better than that.   Schilling, like those guys listed a minute ago, came up with the Orioles in a year in which they lost 107 games, and spent a couple of years with the Orioles trying to find himself while they were trying to find themselves.   In 1991 he pitched for the Astros, who were 65-97, and in ’92 was traded to the Phillies, who were 70-92.   The Phillies, led as much by Schilling as by anyone else, jumped into the World Series in 1993, but were back under .500 in 1994 and 1995, and back in last place by 1996.    He was with the Phillies for nine years, and they were under .500 in eight of them.  Schilling was 9-10 in 1996, when he should have 13-8, he was 17-11 in 1997, when he should have been 19-10, and he was 15-14 in 1998, when he should have been 21-9.    He was 11-12 in 2000, when he should have been 16-9.  

              Eventually, like almost all good pitchers on bad teams, he went to better teams.   Schilling did have some slightly lucky seasons later in his career, when he got to Boston, but for his career he is 27 wins short of the number he really should have.   27 wins is an enormous number, in the context of a Hall of Fame discussion, where five wins can be the difference between in and out.  In terms of runs saved against average, Schilling is comparable to Bob Gibson and Jim Palmer, who are obvious Hall of Famers:

 

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Baltimore Orioles

1988

0

3

0

2

Baltimore Orioles

1989

0

1

0

1

Baltimore Orioles

1990

1

2

4

2

Houston Astros

1991

3

5

4

4

Philadelphia Phillies

1992

14

11

17

9

Philadelphia Phillies

1993

16

7

14

12

Philadelphia Phillies

1994

2

8

4

5

Philadelphia Phillies

1995

7

5

8

5

Philadelphia Phillies

1996

9

10

13

8

Philadelphia Phillies

1997

17

11

19

10

Philadelphia Phillies

1998

15

14

21

9

Philadelphia Phillies

1999

15

6

13

8

Phillies-Diamondbacks

2000

11

12

16

9

Arizona Diamondbacks

2001

22

6

22

8

Arizona Diamondbacks

2002

23

7

22

9

Arizona Diamondbacks

2003

8

9

15

5

Boston Red Sox

2004

21

6

19

8

Boston Red Sox

2005

8

8

5

6

Boston Red Sox

2006

15

7

15

9

Boston Red Sox

2007

9

8

11

7

   

216

146

243

135

 

 

2.  Jack Powell

              Jack Powell was a Honus Wagner-era pitcher who had the misfortune to pitch the second half of his career with the St. Louis Browns at a time when they were losing 100 games a year.  

              I would not endorse the notion that Jack Powell was a great pitcher; frankly he was not.   But he did win 245 games in career, and he was better than his won-lost record says that he was.   He should have won 259 games and he should have been 20+ games over .500, and until 1960, pitchers with records like that were often elected to the Hall of Fame.    If he had been as lucky as he was unlucky, then you would be talking about a pitcher with a record something like 275-220, and then he would be in the Hall of Fame.  

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Cleveland Spiders

1897

15

10

16

9

Cleveland Spiders

1898

23

15

21

18

St. Louis Cardinals

1899

23

19

24

18

St. Louis Cardinals

1900

17

16

14

19

St. Louis Cardinals

1901

19

21

18

20

St. Louis Browns

1902

22

17

22

15

St. Louis Browns

1903

15

19

18

16

New York Yankees

1904

23

19

23

21

Yankees-Stl Browns

1905

10

14

11

15

St. Louis Browns

1906

13

14

16

12

St. Louis Browns

1907

13

16

14

15

St. Louis Browns

1908

16

13

17

11

St. Louis Browns

1909

12

16

13

14

St. Louis Browns

1910

7

11

8

7

St. Louis Browns

1911

8

19

10

13

St. Louis Browns

1912

9

17

13

13

   

245

256

259

235

 

 

3.  Jerry Koosman

              In addition to his historic bad-luck streak in 1977 and 1978, when he was the unluckiest pitcher in the majors both years, Koosman had six other seasons in which his performance was at least a little bit better than his won-lost record.  Taxes, what taxes?   Man, I pitched for the Mets!   I’ve paid my dues. 

              But also, Koosman lost a Cy Young Award that he probably deserved due to another pitcher’s good luck.   If he was 240-198 and had won a Cy Young Award. . .well, there’s a chance.  

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

New York Mets

1967

0

2

1

2

New York Mets

1968

19

12

18

12

New York Mets

1969

17

9

19

9

New York Mets

1970

12

7

14

10

New York Mets

1971

6

11

10

9

New York Mets

1972

11

12

8

10

New York Mets

1973

14

15

18

12

New York Mets

1974

15

11

16

14

New York Mets

1975

14

13

13

14

New York Mets

1976

21

10

16

12

New York Mets

1977

8

20

14

12

New York Mets

1978

3

15

13

14

Minnesota Twins

1979

20

13

20

11

Minnesota Twins

1980

16

13

16

12

Twins-White Sox

1981

4

13

7

7

Chicago White Sox

1982

11

7

11

9

Chicago White Sox

1983

11

7

9

10

Philadelphia Phillies

1984

14

15

14

11

Philadelphia Phillies

1985

6

4

5

7

   

222

209

240

198

 

 

4.  Rick Reuschel

              Rick Reuschel in his career was unlucky by 15 games.   If he had been LUCKY by the same margin, that would have made him 244-161 in his career, and then he would have been a strong Hall of Fame candidate.  But the point that I was really trying to make was that pitchers like Koosman and Reuschel, not if they had been as lucky as they were unlucky in the won-lost record, but simply if they had wound up with the career won-lost records that they deserved based on how they pitched, then they COULD have gotten lucky in the voting process.   Some guys do; Catfish Hunter did, and Jesse Haines, maybe Drysdale, certainly Marquard.   Some guys get lucky in the process.    If Koosman had been 240-198 or if Reuschel had been 229-176, then they COULD have caught a break in the voting, and they might have gotten in.   And Reuschel, like Koosman, lost a Cy Young Award that he probably should have won, but lost it not to his own bad luck, but to another pitcher’s good luck.  

 

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Chicago Cubs

1973

14

15

16

11

Chicago Cubs

1974

13

12

13

15

Chicago Cubs

1975

11

17

14

13

Chicago Cubs

1976

14

12

16

13

Chicago Cubs

1977

20

10

20

9

Chicago Cubs

1978

14

15

16

12

Chicago Cubs

1979

18

12

16

11

Chicago Cubs

1980

11

13

16

13

Cubs-Yankees

1981

8

11

10

8

Chicago Cubs

1983

1

1

1

1

Chicago Cubs

1984

5

5

5

6

Pittsburgh Pirates

1985

14

8

15

7

Pittsburgh Pirates

1986

9

16

12

13

Pirates-Giants

1987

13

9

16

10

San Francisco Giants

1988

19

11

15

13

San Francisco Giants

1989

17

8

13

11

San Francisco Giants

1990

3

6

5

5

San Francisco Giants

1991

0

2

1

1

   

214

191

229

176

 

 

5.   Kevin Brown

              Kevin Brown was 211-144 in his career, and was 305 runs better than league average as a pitcher.   Pitchers with records no better than that do get elected to the Hall of Fame sometimes.   Jesse Haines was 210-158, 129 runs better-than-league; he’s in the Hall of Fame.   Drysdale was 209-166, 229 runs better-than-league; he was elected.   Hal Newhouser was 207-150, 309 runs better than the league; he was eventually elected.   Rube Marquard was 201-177, only 46 runs better than the league; he was elected.   Dazzy Vance was 197-140, 251 runs better than the league; he was elected.  

              Brown was not well liked, either by the media or by his teammates.   He was regarded as a sour, grouchy person who was always annoyed about something.   But Kevin Brown could have been elected to the Hall of Fame, just based on the won-lost record that he was stuck with.   If the voters understood that he was actually significantly better than his won-lost record—fourteen wins better—then he might be in by now.  

 

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Texas Rangers

1986

1

0

0

0

Texas Rangers

1988

1

1

1

2

Texas Rangers

1989

12

9

13

9

Texas Rangers

1990

12

10

11

10

Texas Rangers

1991

9

12

11

13

Texas Rangers

1992

21

11

17

14

Texas Rangers

1993

15

12

15

12

Texas Rangers

1994

7

9

9

10

Baltimore Orioles

1995

10

9

13

7

Florida Marlins

1996

17

11

20

7

Florida Marlins

1997

16

8

19

9

San Diego Padres

1998

18

7

20

9

Los Angeles Dodgers

1999

18

9

19

10

Los Angeles Dodgers

2000

13

6

19

8

Los Angeles Dodgers

2001

10

4

9

5

Los Angeles Dodgers

2002

3

4

3

4

Los Angeles Dodgers

2003

14

9

17

8

New York Yankees

2004

10

6

9

7

New York Yankees

2005

4

7

3

5

   

211

144

225

149

 

 

6.  Frank Tanana

              One of the best pitchers in baseball from 1975 to 1977, Tanana hung around for 15 years after that as just another pitcher.   He won 240 games, deserved 250. 

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Los Angeles Angels

1973

2

2

2

1

Los Angeles Angels

1974

14

19

16

15

Los Angeles Angels

1975

16

9

19

10

Los Angeles Angels

1976

19

10

20

13

Los Angeles Angels

1977

15

9

18

9

Los Angeles Angels

1978

18

12

14

13

Los Angeles Angels

1979

7

5

5

5

Los Angeles Angels

1980

11

12

11

12

Boston Red Sox

1981

4

10

8

8

Texas Rangers

1982

7

18

10

12

Texas Rangers

1983

7

9

10

8

Texas Rangers

1984

15

15

14

14

Rangers-Tigers

1985

12

14

13

11

Detroit Tigers

1986

12

9

10

11

Detroit Tigers

1987

15

10

14

11

Detroit Tigers

1988

14

11

10

13

Detroit Tigers

1989

10

14

13

13

Detroit Tigers

1990

9

8

9

12

Detroit Tigers

1991

13

12

13

11

Detroit Tigers

1992

13

11

9

12

Mets-Yankees

1993

7

17

11

12

   

240

236

251

228

 

7.  Bobo Newsom

              A near-mythical figure of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s, Bobo bounced from team to team decade after decade, drinkin’ and pitchin’ and giving interviews in which he referred to himself in the third person.  Everybody realized that he had top-shelf ability, but he was thought of as too unreliable to be part of a first-rate organization.  Mostly he pitched for bad teams; occasionally a good team would trade for him for help down the stretch drive.    On the whole he was shorted by about one game a year. 

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Brooklyn Dodgers

1929

0

3

0

1

Brooklyn Dodgers

1930

0

0

0

0

Chicago Cubs

1932

0

0

0

0

St. Louis Browns

1934

16

20

17

14

Browns-Senators

1935

11

18

14

14

Washington Senators

1936

17

15

18

15

Senators-Red Sox

1937

16

14

16

16

St. Louis Browns

1938

20

16

20

18

Browns-Tigers

1939

20

11

22

11

Detroit Tigers

1940

21

5

20

10

Detroit Tigers

1941

12

20

15

14

Senators-Dodgers

1942

13

19

12

16

Dodgers-Orioles-Twins

1943

13

13

10

15

Philadelphia Athletics

1944

13

15

17

13

Philadelphia Athletics

1945

8

20

14

16

A's-Senators

1946

14

13

15

12

Senators-Yankees

1947

11

11

12

11

New York Giants

1948

0

4

1

2

Senators-A's

1952

4

4

4

3

Philadelphia Athletics

1953

2

1

2

3

   

211

222

229

204

 

8.  Bob Friend

              Bob Friend was comparable over his career to Mickey Lolich or Jerry Reuss.  

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Pittsburgh Pirates

1951

6

10

8

9

Pittsburgh Pirates

1952

7

17

10

11

Pittsburgh Pirates

1953

8

11

9

10

Pittsburgh Pirates

1954

7

12

8

11

Pittsburgh Pirates

1955

14

9

13

9

Pittsburgh Pirates

1956

17

17

19

17

Pittsburgh Pirates

1957

14

18

16

16

Pittsburgh Pirates

1958

22

14

16

15

Pittsburgh Pirates

1959

8

19

13

14

Pittsburgh Pirates

1960

18

12

20

12

Pittsburgh Pirates

1961

14

19

14

13

Pittsburgh Pirates

1962

18

14

18

12

Pittsburgh Pirates

1963

17

16

18

12

Pittsburgh Pirates

1964

13

18

15

12

Pittsburgh Pirates

1965

8

12

13

12

Yankees-Mets

1966

6

12

5

10

   

197

230

216

196

 

 

9.  Billy Pierce

              I made up a little formula to rate these guys, which apparently doesn’t work too well, because Billy Pierce would appear to be one of the stronger candidates for "guy who lost his Hall of Fame shot by bad luck."   Pierce was regarded as perhaps the premier pitcher in the American League just before Whitey Ford.    Pierce led the American League in ERA in 1955, won 20 games in ’56 and ’57, led the league in strikeouts in ’53, strikeout to walk ratio in ’55, complete games in ’56.  He was the only pitcher of the 1950s to post an ERA under 2.00, qualifying for the league lead (1.97 in ’55).   His career record was 211-169, comparable to Drysdale (209-166) and other Hall of Famers.   His career record should have been 7 ½ games better than it was.   Don’t know whether that would have made a difference for him.   No relation to 1920s pitcher Bill Piercy.  

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Detroit Tigers

1945

0

0

1

0

Detroit Tigers

1948

3

0

2

4

Chicago White Sox

1949

7

15

10

10

Chicago White Sox

1950

12

16

14

11

Chicago White Sox

1951

15

14

16

11

Chicago White Sox

1952

15

12

19

10

Chicago White Sox

1953

18

12

20

11

Chicago White Sox

1954

9

10

11

10

Chicago White Sox

1955

15

10

17

6

Chicago White Sox

1956

20

9

20

12

Chicago White Sox

1957

20

12

17

12

Chicago White Sox

1958

17

11

16

12

Chicago White Sox

1959

14

15

13

13

Chicago White Sox

1960

14

7

12

10

Chicago White Sox

1961

10

9

11

10

San Francisco Giants

1962

16

6

10

8

San Francisco Giants

1963

3

11

5

7

San Francisco Giants

1964

3

0

3

2

   

211

169

217

160

 

10.  Chuck Finley

              I worked an arbitration case for Chuck Finley when he was young, which I think settled at the last moment, and I always rooted for him after that.   I was a big Chuck Finley fan.   He was a tall left-hander with a long delivery but exceptional grace; it was sort of like Frankenstein’s monster had gone to ballet classes.   I always thought he was just inches away from being a truly great pitcher, but it seemed like he was snake bit.   Any time he would get on a role, win four straight games, something weird would happen to de-rail him.   Watching him pitch, though, I really thought he was in the same class with Clemens and Randy; I mean, I know the record shows that he wasn’t, but that’s how I thought of him.    But the won-lost record he should have had is better than the record that some guys IN the Hall of Fame actually had. 

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Los Angeles Angels

1986

3

1

3

2

Los Angeles Angels

1987

2

7

5

5

Los Angeles Angels

1988

9

15

11

12

Los Angeles Angels

1989

16

9

15

8

Los Angeles Angels

1990

18

9

18

9

Los Angeles Angels

1991

18

9

13

13

Los Angeles Angels

1992

7

12

12

12

Los Angeles Angels

1993

16

14

18

11

Los Angeles Angels

1994

10

10

12

9

Los Angeles Angels

1995

15

12

13

10

Los Angeles Angels

1996

15

16

15

12

Los Angeles Angels

1997

13

6

11

8

Los Angeles Angels

1998

11

9

15

10

Los Angeles Angels

1999

12

11

14

11

Cleveland Indians

2000

16

11

15

10

Cleveland Indians

2001

8

7

6

7

Indians-Cardinals

2002

11

15

13

10

   

200

173

209

158

 

 

 

11.   Babe Adams

              One of the great control pitchers ever, Babe Adams was the hero of the 1909 World Series, winning three games.   He was a very handsome man, picking up the nickname "Babe" in the minor leagues off of some song which used the term "Babe".   The female fans loved him; I think that is notable because sometimes people have the impression that there were no female baseball fans until the 1960s.  I think he was the only significant major league player called "Babe" before The Babe.   He lived off of a big curve ball, which is odd for a control pitcher, but David Wells was like that.   Rube Waddell was 193-143 in his career, Dazzy Vance 197-140, Babe about the same and deserved better. 

              Adams was an intelligent man who lived a long and interesting life.    He was in Europe in World War I, and went back to Europe as a war correspondent during World War II, then went to Korea as a war correspondent in the fifties. 

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

St. Louis Cardinals

1906

0

1

0

0

Pittsburgh Pirates

1907

0

2

0

2

Pittsburgh Pirates

1909

12

3

11

4

Pittsburgh Pirates

1910

18

9

17

11

Pittsburgh Pirates

1911

22

12

21

12

Pittsburgh Pirates

1912

11

8

10

9

Pittsburgh Pirates

1913

21

10

24

12

Pittsburgh Pirates

1914

13

16

19

13

Pittsburgh Pirates

1915

14

14

15

13

Pittsburgh Pirates

1916

2

9

2

6

Pittsburgh Pirates

1918

1

1

2

1

Pittsburgh Pirates

1919

17

10

20

10

Pittsburgh Pirates

1920

17

13

18

12

Pittsburgh Pirates

1921

14

5

12

7

Pittsburgh Pirates

1922

8

11

12

8

Pittsburgh Pirates

1923

13

7

9

9

Pittsburgh Pirates

1924

3

1

4

1

Pittsburgh Pirates

1925

6

5

5

7

Pittsburgh Pirates

1926

2

3

1

3

   

194

140

203

137

 

12.   Dave Stieb 

              By my reckoning, Dave Stieb was the best starting pitcher in the major leagues in 1983 and 1984, the best in the American League in 1982 and probably in 1985 (although Stieb vs. Saberhagen is too close to call), very nearly the best in 1981 (McCatty and Morris were a tiny bit better) and one of the top ten in 1980.   It is actually a very unusual period of dominance, but it was masked by won-lost records less than he deserved.  He may be the only pitcher ever who deserved to win 20 games four straight seasons, but never did.  The Blue Jays were a last-place team 1980 to 1982; he just didn’t catch breaks 1983 to 1985.  He got lucky after he was no longer as good.     

              I don’t know that I could say honestly that Bobo Newsom was a "great" pitcher or that Bob Friend was a great pitcher, but I wouldn’t have any hesitation is saying that Dave Stieb was a great pitcher in his prime.   I don’t think anyone who was following baseball closely would have trouble with that.   It was a strange era; the 1970s stars were still hanging on, most notably Carlton and Palmer, but no new stars had come along to replace them.   There was Fernando, but Fernando was really only great that one year, and Jack Morris, who was very good but not truly great, Mario Soto who was great for a couple of years, but there just weren’t any Roger Clemens/Randy Johnson/Greg Maddux/Pedro Martinez type pitching superstars, no Scherzer or Sale or Kershaw.  Blyleven wasn’t as good in the early 80s as he was in the 70s or the late 80s.  Stieb was the best there was, but somehow he was always stuck in second gear, it seemed like.   He threw a power sinker, like Kevin Brown; very few guys do that.   You knew he was going to throw it, but if you hit it was a ground ball, and if you didn’t swing it was a strike, so what can you do?  Whether he was a great pitcher for a long enough period of time to make the Hall of Fame, I don’t know. 

              (So I checked.   Greg Maddux also had a streak of four straight seasons in which he deserved to win 20, but did not.   Bert Blyleven had a streak of six straight seasons in which he should have won 20 and pitched in bad luck, but one of them was that amazing year when he should have won 25 but did win 20 despite pitching in terrible luck, so that’s a streak of 2, then a streak of 3.   Roger Clemens had a streak of 7 straight seasons when he should have won 20 six times, but he did win 20 in 3 of those, and no streak longer than two.   Nap Rucker, 100 years ago, had a streak of five seasons in which he should have won 20 every year, but actually won 20 only once, and was still below where he should have been in that season.  Maddux and Stieb are the only guys who had streaks of four straight seasons in which they should have won 20, but did not.) 

  

Team

Year

Won

Lost

Deserved Wins

Deserved Losses

Toronto Blue Jays

1979

8

8

8

7

Toronto Blue Jays

1980

12

15

16

12

Toronto Blue Jays

1981

11

10

13

8

Toronto Blue Jays

1982

17

14

21

12

Toronto Blue Jays

1983

17

12

21

11

Toronto Blue Jays

1984

16

8

20

10

Toronto Blue Jays

1985

14

13

20

11

Toronto Blue Jays

1986

7

12

10

13

Toronto Blue Jays

1987

13

9

12

10

Toronto Blue Jays

1988

16

8

15

9

Toronto Blue Jays

1989

17

8

13

11

Toronto Blue Jays

1990

18

6

15

9

Toronto Blue Jays

1991

4

3

4

2

Toronto Blue Jays

1992

4

6

4

7

Chicago White Sox

1993

1

3

1

2

Toronto Blue Jays

1998

1

2

3

3

   

176

137

195

136

 

 

 
 

COMMENTS (19 Comments, most recent shown first)

LesLein
How did Bobo Newsom pitch for the Orioles in 1943?
10:47 AM Aug 13th
 
wdr1946
An easy way to calculate the"real" W-L of any pitcher, although the results may be different from Bill James's method, is to take the total number of decisions and add/subtract the WAA (Wins Above Average), available online for any pitcher on Baseball Reference. By this method, Kevin Brown should have won 219 games (Bill James says 225 by his method), Bobo Newsom 237 wins (Bill says 229), and Billy Pierce 216 (Bill says 217). Their bases of calculation clearly differ, but they both find that these pitchers were shortchanged.
8:48 PM Aug 12th
 
shthar
Steib, Brown, Reuschel and Finley were Hall of Famers in a lot of tabletop leagues I've been in.
11:28 PM Aug 11th
 
MarisFan61
Do we assume (and are we stupid to even wonder) that Tom Cheney being included in that thing near the top is a joke? I figure 'of course,' but it seems there are some who thought/think his 16-inning 21-strikeout game undid his arm and kept him from being a great pitcher, no matter than he was already almost 28 and wasn't that great. BTW his Wiki article has an inadvertent little dark humor thing: The last section is titled "Career Stats and Death."
12:35 PM Aug 11th
 
okrent
This is from babeadams.com, by his granddaughter:
"Some reports were erroneously made that he managed a minor league team, lost a great deal of investments in a land deal in Florida, and was a foreign war correspondent. None of these are true. The real story: upon retirement from baseball in 1926, he went back home to the farm in Mt. Moriah, suffered through the market crash in 1929 just like all other farmers, and slowly, with hard work and neighborly support, was able to grow a successful farm. He enjoyed farming, hunting, and fishing."​
6:49 AM Aug 11th
 
brewer09
Maddux and Stieb are the only guys who had streaks of four straight seasons in which they should have won 20, but did not.

Both managed by ... Bobby Cox.

1:42 AM Aug 11th
 
CharlesSaeger
Of all the guys mentioned so far (I count 95), the correlation between their Extra Wins Through Luck (prorated to the pitcher's own decisions) and his BB-Ref.com Batting Wins Above Average is 0.42, so that accounts for 18% of it. I would think that if we threw out guys affected by the DH rule, it would be higher, but it isn't huge regardless. Bob Lemon, a damn good hitter (+11.3 WAA), was lucky (+25 wins) but Red Ruffing, also a damn good hitter (+15 WAA), was a wash (-1 wins), so it's hardly destiny.
9:44 PM Aug 10th
 
tangotiger
Here's a list of 15 guys on the cusp.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/tiny/XB7rS

These are all pitchers with at least 55 WAR, 2000 IP, born since 1918, but with under 240 Wins.

Name checking the 7 guys on Bill's list: Schilling, Brown, Reuschel, Finley, Tanana, Koosman, Stieb all are on the list.

Active or recently retired are these 5: Doc, CC, Buehrle, Hudson, Greinke.

That leaves these 3 guys: Tiant, Cone, Saberhagen.

- Tiant had the bad luck of retiring later than Catfish, but also just before all the 300-game winners.

- Cone and Saberhagen seem to be the prototypical players to decide if you are a small-hall or big-hall kind of guy.

1:23 PM Aug 10th
 
wovenstrap
I never thought of this, but Tom Hanks spent some of his formative years as an actor in Cleveland (where I currently live), and I'll bet anything he threw that in just to amuse himself.
1:01 PM Aug 10th
 
chuck
Thank you for this interesting series of articles, Bill. As a kid, I went by the name Charlie, got called Charlie Brown a lot, and that likely is why I’m drawn to studying pitchers who were unlucky. I’ve long done comparisons of Reuschel and Morris, who had a similar number of starts, and thought that Reuschel, with Morris’ fortune to pitch for the Tigers, might well have amassed a Hall of Fame won-loss record.

You say in your first article: “I am always looking for hidden stars, always looking for guys who were really good, but whose records disguise their true ability.”
I hope you might give your results for Ned Garver, who for a number of reasons I think is one of the all-time unluckiest pitchers, and who might fit that bill.

1) Garver pitched for poor teams almost his entire career. Pro-rated to his innings each season, his average team winning percentage was .406, or a 63-91 team of the time.

2) Garver’s teams were often poor defensive teams, elevating his average on balls in play. This is something you will have adjusted for in your method, but the thing is that Garver, like Stieb, like Key, like Rivera, and like many knuckleball and spitball pitchers, had a batting average on balls in play much better than that of his teammates. If one looks at Garver’s ball in play average compared to his teammates, multiplying his balls in play by his teammates’ ball-in-play average (without Garver’s stats included), here are the numbers of hits he was better or worse than teammates, year-by-year:

15, 15, 31, 30, 19, 4, 27, -12, 3, 21, 23, 18, 19, -10.
There were only those two seasons in which his ball-in-play results were worse than teammates, one of these being his last season. The sum total there is 204 hits- the number it appears he was better than teammates.

What you will have found doing your ball-in-play adjustments is that Garver’s results were better than league average. But this is not, as with Jim Palmer, due to his teams being better than average defensively. Quite the reverse. Garver was about 79 hits in play better than league average with a team that would be about 125 hits worse than league average.

3) Garver was a good hitter. Not Wes Ferrell good, but good enough that Baseball-reference says he was 46 runs above average as a pitcher. As you say, in another context, it adds up. There were four seasons where his hitting was good enough to say that it was worth close to a win.

4) Garver pitched in hitters' parks, his average pitching park factor 104.5

5) Garver kept getting traded to bad teams. He was on the horrible Browns until just before they moved to Baltimore, traded to Detroit, which was very bad at the time, then about the time Kaline was starting his career Garver went to Kansas City and had his last season on the expansion Angels (in their extreme hitter's park).

Garver was 121-153 as a starter, 8-4 in relief, for a 129-157 (.451) winning percentage.
I see him, using my own method, with an average team behind him, and his own hitting factored in, like so:

109-66 (.623) from 1948-1954, and 57-54 (.514) from 1955-1961.
Total: 166-120 (.580)
We’re not talking about a Hall of Fame career, but about a much better pitcher than people realize. Your numbers will be somewhat different in the decisions, as mine were based on giving him the same decisions he actually had. But I’m very interested to see what you came up with for him.

12:43 PM Aug 10th
 
vandorn
Apropos of nothing, but I have to mention it since Chuck Finley is on the list. Finley was married to (and sometimes abused by) actress Tawny Kitaen. Tawny once mentioned that it was really amusing that she appeared in a scene in Bachelor Party where Tom Hanks (after swatting a tennis ball over a chain link fence) yelled "Cleveland wins the pennant!" and then married a guy who was on Cleveland when they won the pennant.

But I don't know why she thought that. Finley was on the Indians for two and a half seasons and didn't win the pennant in any of them. Unless you call the 2001 AL Central title "the pennant".
12:17 PM Aug 10th
 
CharlesSaeger
@Steven Goldleaf: And neither of those teams provided him with runs or defensive support, hence the bad luck.

@Bill: How does Brad Radke stack up? He always struck me as having the Dave Stieb issue--he was really good when his team wasn't, then he got old just as his team got good.
12:15 PM Aug 10th
 
18hippo
Reuschel had many seasons in which he won thirteen or fourteen instead of the fifteen or sixteen he deserved. This feels like falling from stud to workman, at least in public perception.

11:47 AM Aug 10th
 
smbakeresq
IIRC Stieb was also like Kevin Brown, a sour person not well liked by many. For some reason I recall hearing of an incident where someone made a misplay on a ball and right after the inning he was recalculating its affect on his ERA and got into an argument with that teammate. I don't know if it was true, does anyone else remember this?
11:01 AM Aug 10th
 
Steven Goldleaf
How did Bobo pitch for the Orioles and Twins in 1943? I know he moved around a lot, but pitching for 2 teams that didn't exist yet? That's good.
10:13 AM Aug 10th
 
sayhey
Dave Stiebs's 1985 season was weirdly unlucky. He 1) led the AL in ERA and H/9, in a year where 2) the Blue Jays broke through and won their first divisional title (and 99 games), and 3) finished fourth in the AL in runs. Stieb finished 14-13.

I went through his game log, and one key was that all but one of his wins were quality starts; you might expect him to pick up two or three cheap wins with a 100-win team that scored runs. He only gave up 0, 1, or 2 earned runs in 26 (all 6+ innings) of his 36 starts. He was 13-5 with 8 no-decisions in those 26 starts.

I also notice Toronto was towards the bottom of the league in Save % that year, so maybe that was a factor. It was Henke's first year with the Jays--pitched great, but didn't arrive till halfway through the season.​
9:32 AM Aug 10th
 
wovenstrap
As you say, Stieb's credentials in the early 1980s are very strong. Pitching in Toronto ten years before they won any titles didn't help him, in that he had hardly any profile.... if he had been in Detroit, where Morris was, during that time he'd have been 30% more famous, which might have benefited him later on.
9:02 AM Aug 10th
 
KaiserD2
Again some very interesting comparisons with what I have found here.

By my reckoning Curt Schilling and Kevin Brown are overqualified Hall of Famers with 5 and 4 seasons of 4 WAA, respectively. Incidentally, Generation X (born 1961-81) had 11 pitchers with 4 or more seasons of 4 WAA or more. That is way off the charts for other generations--including the subsequent Millennial generation, which is not going to come close to matching that record--and it raises very serious questions about exactly how they all did it. Of course, that doesn't prove anything about how any particular individual did it.

By my reckoning, Dave Stieb is tied with Blyleven as the greatest peak value pitcher of the Boom generation with 6 seasons of 4 WAA or more (including an adjustment for 1981, based on what he did in the subsequent seasons. Even with only 5 he would rank second.) Dave Stieb will never go into the Hall of Fame because he never won 20 games in a season. I can't explain why he couldn't do that--he pitched respectable numbers of innings when the Bue Jays were good--but he didn't. Reading Bill's comment I feel that he, too, can't understand why Stieb doesn't have a better record.

Regarding Billy Pierce, my method shows him superior to both Lemon and Whitey Ford (although not as durable, obviously, as Ford), and I don't have any doubt that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

There is however a big omission from this list: Wes Ferrell. He is an exception to one of the rules Bill laid down at the beginning of this article--he did pitch his whole career with bad teams He is tied with Hal Newhouser, with 5 seasons of 4 WAA or more, within the GI generation (born 1903-24.) Feller had only 4 such seasons, as did Hubbell. He is very overqualified for the Hall of Fame.

One question hangs over this discussion and also a lot of Hall of Fame discussions about hitters: how many points (for the Hall) should we give for showing up? A lot of durable pitchers piled up great career records pitching for good teams, even though they weren't significantly above average. A lot of hitters in high-offense eras pile up 500 homers or 3000 hits without having that many really great seasons And they go in, in some cases, I think, undeservedly. They didn't help their teams win that many pennants that much.

DK


8:40 AM Aug 10th
 
joedimino
Wow, great list, finally got to see Rueschel. For what it's worth, the Hall of Merit has elected five of these guys, Schilling, Reuschel, Brown, Pierce and Stieb.
8:12 AM Aug 10th
 
 
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