Inducted: 1971 (Veterans Committee)
Why do left handed pitchers get special recognition as being left handed? It’s somewhat confusing. Is it because there are just more right handed people in the world, so it makes sense to single them out when they do something great? It’s a little confusing. And sometimes, like Eppa Rixey or Tom Glavine, being left handed is what gets them into the Hall of Fame. Another similar case can be made for today’s entry, Rube Marquard.
Marquard threw 3300 innings in 18 years in the bigs, mostly with the Giants and Dodgers. He won 201 games and lost 177 with an ERA of 3.08. He struck out a decent number of hitters, and at a solid rate for his era. He struck out one fewer batter every 9 innings than Walter Johnson did, and walked a similar amount. Upon his retirement in 1925, Marquard ranked 23rd in strikeouts and 32nd in ERA.
Marquard’s induction is startling because from a traditional standpoint, he doesn’t look like a strong candidate. He was barely over .500 for his career, and his ERA is one of the higher ones among his peers. However, from a more modern perspective, there’s a good amount to like. His K-rate (strikeouts per 9 innings) was 9th all-time at his retirement, and his FIP ranked 17th. With such a sizeable gap between his ERA and his FIP (0.22 runs is a decent difference), it’s likely that he didn’t have the best defensive teams behind him. This hurts both his ERA and his WHIP (1.24), both of which seem to be roughly league average for his career. On the other hand, his FIP was 10% better than league average in his career, showing he was a much better pitcher than his ERA indicated.
Obviously, Marquard isn’t the strongest candidate. He played on a lot of mediocre teams with mediocre defenses which contributed to a mediocre record, and striking out only 4 batters every 9 innings isn’t great compared to future pitchers. His last 4 seasons also inflate a lot of his rate stats in the wrong direction, twice having an ERA north of 5 and throwing roughly 500 total innings between them. Like King Kelly, Marquard enhanced the culture of the sport and was one of the most visible athletes of the times. He appeared on stage and on movies quite often, and even had an affair with Blossom Seeley, dubbed the “hottest girl in town”. He very clearly was an early predecessor for Babe Ruth, who became a near-instant cultural phenomenon when he began his career in the Bronx.
Marquard may not have been the best, but he was certainly up there among other greats in his time. He absolutely deserved his 1971 induction.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 9/2/16: Let’s kick things up a notch and look at the last player to win the NL Triple Crown.