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Blyleven for the Hall Here's
2002-07-29 14:24
by Mike Carminati

Blyleven for the Hall

Here's a good article on why Bert Blyleven is eminently qualified to be a Hall of Famer. It is very odd that Blyleven, who is widely acknowledged to have the best curveball this side of Candy Cummings, is not only not yet a Hall-of-Famer given that he's been eligible for five years, he, as the article indicates, has not even gotten much support.

The article does a good job of pleading is Hall case. I just have a few comments to add garner from the Baseball Reference site. His career ERA (adjusted for ballpark factors) is 18% better than the league average. He once bettered the league average by 58% (1973), and had one other season at 50% better and four seasons of 40% better. Here is total compared with the Hall-of-Famers listed in the article:

Pitcher         ERA+
Tom Seaver     127
Jim Palmer     125
Gaylord Perry  117
Steve Carlton  115
Fergie Jenkins 115
Phil Niekro    115
Nolan Ryan     112
Don Sutton     108
Catfish Hunter 104

I think this buttresses his case: The Wins Above Replacement statistic used in the article makes a good argument, but one could counter by saying that Blyleven hung on for a good deal longer than most to close failingly in on 300 wins, thereby padding his total. The adjusted ERA vs. league (ERA+) puts the entire career in perspective. Extending your career will not help and would probably hurt this stat. ERA+ also argues strongly for Blyleven's legitimacy as a Hall-of-Famer.

Also, look at the Hall of Fame indicators that Baseball Reference uses. He exceeds all of the averages for a Hall-of-Famer except one, black ink test. This test counts the number of times that a player leads his league in a category. These are listed in the baseball encyclopedias in bold or black ink, therefore, the name. Blyleven is here penalized for having a superior yet not always league-leading career. His gray ink test (similar to black ink, but tests for players in the top 10 in his league in a major category) far exceeds the Hall average:

Black Ink: Pitching - 16 (Average HOFer ~ 40)
Gray Ink: Pitching - 239 (Average HOFer ~ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching - 50.0 (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching - 113.5 (Likely HOFer > 100)
Looking at his "Similar Pitchers," those whose career totals most closely resembles the given player's, yields eight enshrinees out of 10 (asterisked):

Don Sutton (914) * Gaylord Perry (909) * Fergie Jenkins (890) * Tommy John (889) Robin Roberts (876) * Tom Seaver (864) * Jim Kaat (854) Early Wynn (845) * Phil Niekro (844) * Steve Carlton (840) *
The two "similar" pitchers who are not in the Hall are the next two pitchers on the most-overlooked-for-the-Hall list. Indeed Blyleven may prove an acid test for future pitcher candidates who will be less likely to win 300 games due to the use of five-man pitching rotations and the greater use (or abuse) of relief pitchers. If a pitcher does not have 300 wins or three or four Cy Young awards to his credit, he may get snubbed. I think that before the absurdity of such exclusions becomes prevalent, the Hall will be compelled to enshrine Blyleven (and perhaps Tommy John and Jim Kaat along with him. By the way their respective career ERA+ are 111 and 107).

It's odd that certain players are singled out for celebrity whereas others who are at least their equals, if not better, are largely forgotten. Compare Nolan Ryan to Blyleven. I think that the Blyleven is quantifiably the stronger of the two, Ryan is still celebrated for his seven no-hitters and record-breaking strikeout totals. Isn't having the greatest curveball in baseball and a great career enough cause for celebrity?

. . .

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