Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
There are some players for whom an entire season defines their entire careers. Maury Wills would be forgotten if he never set the single season stolen base record. Hack Wilson’s RBI record got him into the Hall of Fame. Likewise, one season got Jack Chesbro inducted into Cooperstown.
In 10 seasons, Chesbro pitched in nearly 3000 innings winning 198 games against 132 losses with an ERA of 2.68. Chesbro actually struck out batters more frequently than Cy Young (3.93 per 9 for Chesbro versus 3.43 per 9 for Young), but also walked batters at a higher rate. He also compares well to other pitchers from his generation that have appeared so far, like Pud Galvin. Galvin may have thrown twice as many innings in his career, but he was much closer to league average than Chesbro was. Galvin’s ERA- was 94 compared to 90 for Chesbro, while Galvin’s FIP- was 98 versus 88 for Chesbro. This means that the innings Chesbro was throwing, despite being fewer in number than Galvin, were of a higher quality.
As stated earlier, a major reason for Chesbro’s induction was his one season where he won 41 games. In 1904, he threw over 450 innings with an ERA south of 2.00 and allowed fewer than 7 hits per 9 innings. Truly it was a great season, and along with that season, he did have a very good overall career.
The problem with his induction isn’t the fact that he only played in 10 seasons. It was because he would threaten retirement and holdout in contract talks almost every season, even from his first season. Several times he would miss most, if not all, of Spring Training and would end up being overweight and would struggle through seasons with double digit losses, despite having a solid ERA almost every season. He also had some bouts with a sore arm due to altering his throwing motion upon learning a spitball.
Chesbro was a very good pitcher who didn’t pitch quite enough to be a strong candidate for induction, and probably wouldn’t have been inducted had he not won 41 games in 1904.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 8/18/16
This Hall of Fame member of the Class of 1971 was a hard hitting fleet of foot outfielder primarily with the original Baltimore Orioles.