Year Inducted: 1955 (BBWAA ballot #10, 205/251)
The BBWAA has received its fair share of criticism lately with regards to the Hall of Fame and voting process. They were criticized for things like the 10-player limit, the 15-year period on the ballot for a player with at least 5% of the vote, and the lifetime vote. To their credit, the BBWAA has addressed some of these issues. The limit for a player to appear on a ballot has been reduced from 15 to 10 years and they have started to remove voting rights for some writers who haven’t covered the game in a long time. Both of these are excellent steps in the right direction.
The BBWAA has also come under fire for some of the selections that they have made in recent years, most notably Jim Rice and Andre Dawson and as some would see a “holier-than-thou” treatment of players both suspected and guilty of using performance enhancing drugs by not voting in players like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Jeff Bagwell. The PED discussion is one for another day, but it should be noted that the BBWAA does an overall very good job at being the gatekeepers of the Hall of Fame. But, sometimes they slip up and induct players like Ted Lyons, the first pitcher from the third generation of starters. The third generation of starters began their careers after the 1920s but ended before the mound was lowered in the late 1960s.
Lyons was a good pitcher for the White Sox in his 21 seasons (spent all on the South Side of the Windy City). While pitching for a fairly mediocre team, he racked up 260 wins against 230 losses. He tossed 4161 innings in 594 games (484 starts) with 1073 strikeouts, 1121 walks and an ERA of 3.67. Lyons’ main claim to fame was that he was able to throw a lot of innings. Of the 484 starts that he made, he completed 356 of them (good for 23rd all-time when he retired). During his career he ranked 3rd in wins, 1st in losses, the 5th highest ERA (among pitchers with at least 3000 innings), 21st in strikeouts and had the 7th most walks. All in all, a fairly solid career.
Unfortunately, solid doesn’t equal greatness. His ERA is the second highest of any Hall of Fame pitcher, better than only Red Ruffing’s 3.80. His ERA- shows that he was 15% better than league average, which is certainly not too bad (and to be fair Chicago stadiums can easily play as hitters parks). Among Hall of Fame pitchers, he ranks 28th in innings, but also 63rd in strikeouts and the 29th most walks. In fact, he is the only Hall of Fame pitcher to walk more batters than he struck out, which hurt a lot of his advanced numbers that are based more on FIP than ERA.
Lyons is actually a good example of innings load leading to arm injuries. Through his age 29 season (1930), he had logged almost 2000 innings with mixed results (126-102 record, 3.66 ERA, right in line with his career actually). Then, he injured his arm in 1931 and never started more than 27 games (or appeared in more than 36 games) in a season until the end of his career, ending with a WHIP higher than all but 20 qualifying pitchers from the 2015 season. In fact, that’s how he earned his nickname. As Lyons was the only real drawing card for the Chisox, especially towards the end of his career, to limit his innings they would only pitch him on Sundays. A very solid pitcher, but not one of the greatest of all time.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 7/21/16 this shortstop was a pioneer in labor negotiations and formed the Player’s League.