I know it’s an exercise in futility, but sometimes an idea strikes me and I feel like writing about it. Here are two pitchers. One is a Hall of Famer, the other is currently on the ballot. See if you can tell the difference between them:
Pitcher A: 4413.1 IP, 682 starts, 2607 K/1500 BB. ERA- of 86. ERA of 3.54. BAA of .252. 356 HR allowed. WHIP of 1.31
Pitcher B: 3562.2 IP, 537 starts, 2813 K/785 BB. ERA- of 82. ERA of 3.68. BAA of .252. 376 HR allowed. WHIP of 1.19
Player A pitched on the one of the greatest collections of talent the NL has ever seen, and thus won over 300 games (in 150 more starts). Player B only managed to win 270 games while being on some mediocre teams during the same time frame. And, Player B did all of that in the AL East where some incredibly good hitters parks are located.
Yet Player A made the Hall of Fame on first ballot and Player B is languishing on the ballot as we speak.
I’m not saying that Mike Mussina is a definite Hall of Famer (and I detest arguments that say “This guy’s a Hall of Famer, so this other guy must be one!”), but I do think that we, as a baseball culture, have elevated a guy like Tom Glavine higher than he should be due to his win totals. I ranked him in the low 170’s, and there was still part of my brain that was telling me that was wrong. But, there is no doubt in my mind that Mussina was the better pitcher between the two.
The question essentially becomes, do Glavine’s ~900 more IP outweigh the 200 more K’s and 800 fewer walks that Mussina had (again, in much less time against a much tougher league) with basically the same ERA and better WHIP and without as much of a benefit of a wide strike zone like Glavine (and Maddux to a degree) was claimed to have gotten.
I can easily see Mussina being the next big cause a la Tim Raines and Bert Blyleven. And that’s one I probably would get behind.
Year Inducted: 2015 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 500/549)
Carl Hubbell in the 1934 All-Star Game may have had more fame with his outing, but it wasn’t the only dominating pitching performance. In 1999, with the Game at Fenway Park and MLB celebrating all of its living legends with the All Century Team, the National League sent up Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Matt Williams and Jeff Bagwell in the first two innings. The only player not to strike out was Williams, who reached on an error by the second baseman. What pitcher was the master behind this gem? That would be Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez.
Year Inducted: 2015 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 534/549)
2001 saw the country shaken by a terrible, horrifying event. And, thanks to baseball, the country bounced back. Mostly, it was due to one of the greatest World Series of all-time. The Yankees and Diamondbacks went a full seven games, even playing into November as the season was put on hold during the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks. After taking the first two in the desert, the Diamondbacks headed to New York with a 2-0 lead. The Yankees used a little bit of luck and won the next three in the Bronx, including two walkoff wins in extra innings. After a trouncing in Game 6 by the Snakes, the series was knotted up at 3-3, and the stage was set for Game Seven. Curt Schilling dueled Roger Clemens to a near draw for more than seven innings. With two out in the eighth, manager Bob Brenly called upon Randy Johnson, the second best lefty of all-time, to keep the score at 2-1. Johnson dominated the Yanks in Game Six on 104 pitches, and continued to stymie them in Game Seven, setting up Luis Gonzalez’s walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth. Johnson cemented himself as one of the premier pitchers of all-time with that outing, and cemented his legacy as a Diamondback.
Year Inducted: 2014 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 555/571)
How great does a player have to be to have a stat named for him? Nolan Ryan threw seven no-hitters, but a no-hitter isn’t called a “Ryan”. Roger Clemens had two 20-strikeout games, but that occurrence isn’t called a “Clemens” either. And yet, rather colloquially, when a pitcher throws a complete game shutout with fewer than 100 pitches, he is credited with a “Maddux”. It’s named for when Atlanta Braves ace Greg Maddux threw such a gem against the Orioles in 1998, and one that he did 13 times in his illustrious career.
Year Inducted: 2015 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 455/549)
Pitching is one of the most unnatural motions ever devised by man. And, in this era when pitchers throw with max effort, it is even more unnatural. This is why it seems like Tommy John Surgery is on the rise across baseball. Tommy John usually requires at least one full year to physically recover from, and then time for the pitcher to regain consistency in his delivery and stamina in order to become an effective pitcher. Even as routine as it seems to have become, many pitchers still fail to return to full strength and the loss of at least one season makes it difficult for them to gain the career numbers needed for induction. He won’t be the only one, but the first pitcher to have Tommy John Surgery and gain induction was Atlanta’s ace John Smoltz.
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. Continue reading