Year Inducted: 1995 (Veterans Committee)
A lot of the older players have come up recently. And, to a degree that makes sense. In a study like this that compares players to each other, as well as to their respective peers, a lot of the older players get lost in the fog and end up towards the lower half of the list. Vic Willis is an excellent example.
Willis pitched 13 seasons in the National League, mostly with the Braves. He put up a record of 249-205 in nearly 4000 innings with an ERA of 2.63. His record is deceiving; he pitched on several teams that had poor offenses, and according to his own personal account, pitiful defenses. Baseball Reference has an interesting tool that allows a player’s stats to be adjusted for a neutral setting (4.25 RS/G, 162 games, neutral parks). Doing this adjustment for Willis shows him winning 275 games instead of 249, a significant bump that would definitely give him a stronger case.
He struck out a decent amount of hitters for his era, striking out roughly 250 more batters than the average starter during his career. His career ERA- of 87 also shows how effective he was at preventing runs from scoring. Willis was definitely one of the top pitchers of his era.
The downside to Willis is two-sided. One is that he did walk quite a few batters. His career BB/9 was nearly 3 and he did issue nearly 150 extra free passes than the average starter in his career. He did a good job preventing his extra runners to reach, but with some shaky offenses backing him up and some-again according to him-rough defenses behind him, any extra runners could stockpile into extra runs quite quickly. Another is the fact that, like a lot of pitchers from that time period, he only pitched for 13 years, which helps suppress his stats. One of the things that makes Cy Young one of the best pitchers of all-time isn’t just the wins he put up, but the fact that he was able to pitch so many innings at a high quality. Willis definitely was a very good pitcher, and better than many pitchers in the Hall of Fame, but it’s hard to see him ranking much higher than where he currently resides.
Stay tuned for the next update.
Oh, an explanation for the silence may be necessary. Well, let’s just say that this project is tougher than first imagined and a break was necessary. Hopefully another one won’t be needed for a long time.
The next update is due out 8/30/16. This Hall of Fame right fielder played almost exclusively with the Phillies and in 17 seasons slugged over .540, including a career best 43 in his second season.