Year Inducted: 2014 (BBWAA, 1st ballot, 525/571)
The Atlanta Braves of the 1990s and early 2000s were one of the best teams of all-time. With a pitching staff headlined by 3 Hall of Fame starters (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz), a Hall of Fame manager (Bobby Cox), and a lineup anchored by a future Hall of Famer (Chipper Jones) mixing with several other very good hitters over the years (Rafael Furcal, Andruw Jones, Vinny Castilla, Kenny Lofton, etc.) they won their division every year from 1991 until 2005. However, like other pitchers on long winning teams like Herb Pennock and Waite Hoyt, Tom Glavine also got slightly overrated due to his record from pitching for them.
Glavine pitched for 22 seasons, getting a record of 305-203 with an ERA of 3.54 in over 4400 innings. He struck out 2607 batters against 1500 walks with a WHIP of 1.31. He won two Cy Young Awards and a World Series MVP award. His Series MVP came in the only postseason where the Braves won the World Series during that 15 season run. Glavine was renowned as a finesse pitcher, changing speeds and hitting the corners to compensate for his lack of strikeouts. While his ERA is somewhat high for a Hall of Famer, his ERA- is 86 meaning that he was 14% lower than the league ERA. Statistically that is significant because, as a 5th generation starter, he primarily pitched in the steroid era, when home runs went up, runs scored went up and strikeouts went up.
Unfortunately, Glavine’s reputation as a control pitcher may be a little unfounded. As mentioned earlier, his WHIP of 1.31 was fairly high. During his career, the average WHIP was 1.39, and a pitcher walked 3.39 batters every 9 innings (Glavine walked 3.09 every 9 innings). Glavine’s career FIP was only 3.95 and his FIP- was 94, meaning he was only 6% better than league average.
And yet, he still managed to win over 300 games, an incredible feat that could possibly never happen again (Randy Johnson was the most recent pitcher to reach that plateau). How could he do it if he wasn’t as dominant as perceived? Mostly, it comes down to 3 things. One is that he threw a lot of innings. Glavine tossed 2600 more innings than the average pitcher in his career, and pitchers that throw a lot of innings tend to get a lot of decisions. When a pitcher like that plays on a great team, he’ll get a lot of wins because his team will score a lot of runs (and Andruw Jones will rob plenty of home runs in center field). The third is that he was healthy for most of his career. Glavine only wound up on the DL once, in his final season with the Braves in 2008 and started 25 or more games almost every season.
Glavine was a very good pitcher, and an important part of the Braves’ playoff run of the 1990s. However, what would have happened if he won only 280 games, as Blyleven did? Would he have been inducted? Would he be as highly regarded? It’s tough to say for sure, but Glavine’s longevity landed him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 8/10/16 This was the shortstop of the 1920s NY Giants.