CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

No Previous Article
No Next Article

March 6, 2003

The Proper Support

Did Bert Blyleven Receive it?

by Greg Spira

Six years ago, in Baseball Prospectus 1997, I wrote an article on the subject of "pitching to the score." After some careful research, I concluded that there was no evidence that any pitcher in recent times had demonstrated a clear ability to win or lose games that was not based on how many runs they allowed in the context he was pitching. In that article, I primarily focused on those pitchers who had been labeled "winners" in recent years because they often sported excellent won-loss records despite mediocre ERAs. I looked at Jack Morris, Dwight Gooden, Jack McDowell, Dave Stewart, Dave Stieb, Jose DeLeon, Catfish Hunter, and Sandy Koufax, and found that none of them demonstrated any pattern of winning more games than one would expect from their runs allowed totals.

That's not the end of the conversation, however. The article certainly did not prove that "pitching to the score"--or its opposite--does not exist. All it really showed was that the eight pitchers in question did not exhibit this skill in any clear manner. In the future I hope to re-run this study, looking at Christy Mathewson's career, since it is often argued that pitchers from the early-20th century had to pitch to the score, so they wouldn't wear out from massive workloads.

That said, there's one recent pitcher whose record I've wanted to put to the test for many years. That pitcher is Bert Blyleven. It has been suggested by many baseball observers that Blyleven's career record is not as good as it should have been given his Runs Allowed (RA) and his pitching environment. I've seen several studies with incomplete data that suggested this might be true. It has taken me several years to get all of Blyleven's run support (RS) data to take a more formal look, but I finally was given the last chunks I needed a few weeks ago. Thank you to Tom Ruane and David Smith of Retrosheet for helping me in my pursuit.

Using the same methods I used in my earlier article, here is Blyleven's career, comparing his Projected Record (as estimated by Run Support squared divided by Runs Allowed squared plus Run Support squared) to his actual won-loss record:


                      Projected     Actual   Wins
Year    RS/9    RA/9     W    L     W    L    +/-
-------------------------------------------------
1970    3.97    3.62    10    9    10    9      0
1971    3.38    3.07    17   14    16   15     -1
1972    3.63    2.91    21   13    17   17     -4
1973    4.24    3.02    25   12    20   17     -5
1974    4.15    3.17    21   13    17   17     -4
1975    4.61    3.40    16    9    15   10     -1
1976    2.57    3.21    11   18    13   16     +2
1977    4.82    3.11    18    8    14   12     -4
1978    4.61    3.47    15    9    14   10     -1
1979    3.95    3.86     9    8    12    5     +3
1980    3.70    4.24     9   12     8   13     -1
1981    4.08    2.94    12    6    11    7     -1
1982    8.18    6.20     3    1     2    2     -1
1983    3.83    4.26     8    9     7   10     -1
1984    5.16    3.15    19    7    19    7      0
1985    4.28    3.71    19   14    17   16     -2
1986    4.75    4.44    17   14    17   14      0
1987    4.57    4.45    14   13    15   12     +1
1988    4.10    5.56    10   17    10   17      0
1989    4.90    2.83    16    6    17    5     +1
1990    4.63    5.71     6    9     8    7     +2      
1992    5.34    5.15    10   10     8   12     -2
-------------------------------------------------
TOTAL                  306  231   287  250    -19

These results are unlike those of any pitcher I have run before. But it's still hard to draw any conclusions. Over the first eight years of his career, Blyleven lost a lot more games than anyone would expect from his run support and runs allowed--17 to be exact. The rest of his career, however, looks perfectly normal; there's absolutely no sign of that pattern continuing. Is the pattern in the early years significant? I don't know. The "lost" wins could be a result of how Blyleven was pitching, but it could also result from his teams' offensive patterns, bullpens, or their managing. The answer is going to require a closer look at these seasons, especially 1972-74 (all spent with the Twins), which by themselves account for two-thirds of the difference between his projected career wins and his actual career wins.

No matter what is responsible for Blyleven's "lost wins," it is clear that they do not amount to enough to argue that he does not belong in the Hall of Fame. The facts remain the same: Blyleven's 287-250 career record and 3.31 ERA in the context of a career spent primarily with mediocre teams in hitters' parks is clearly Hall of Fame material. Where he fits into the pantheon, however, may become clearer with further research. Stay tuned.

0 comments have been left for this article.

No Previous Article
No Next Article

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: August 29, 2014
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: This Article Mentions Fehlan...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, August 29
Premium Article The Call-Up: Dilson Herrera
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, Augu...
Prospectus Feature: Roast A Parks
Premium Article Raising Aces: Mis-Priced

MORE FROM MARCH 6, 2003
Team Health Reports: Toronto Blue Jays
Premium Article Under The Knife: Slides and Risks
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Love Notes

MORE BY GREG SPIRA
2004-10-22 - Internet Baseball Awards
2003-10-24 - Internet Baseball Awards
2003-07-15 - Mid-Season Baseball Awards
2003-03-06 - The Proper Support
2002-10-26 - Internet Baseball Awards: NL Player of the Y...
2002-10-23 - Internet Baseball Awards: Pitcher of the Yea...
2002-10-23 - Internet Baseball Awards: AL Player of the Y...
More...