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December 18, 2000
From The Mailbag
The Hall Of Fame
While Willie Hernandez's 1984 season was awe-inspiring, and deserves to be placed on a pedestal somewhere, I don't think it is the greatest single season by a lefty closer. Consider Billy Wagner's 1999 numbers:
Here are the same numbers for Hernandez:
Basically, the only way you can call Hernandez's season superior is to point to the fact that he pitched almost double the innings that Wagner. Even considering that, though, I still think Wagner's 1999 is superior; it's not Billy's fault that nobody uses 2 inning closers anymore. Plus, 1984 was not the yackball year that 1999 was, and Wagner still had the better ERA.
Wagner's numbers, while impressive, just highlight for me how much the role has changed from years past. Do you think Wagner could sustain those numbers if he had to pitch in 80 games and toss 140 innings, as Willie did? Considering that Hernandez was also not being handed the Tigers' save opportunities exclusively. Good ol' Senor Smoke, Aurelio Lopez, tossed another 138 innings in relief, logging 14 saves.
For better or worse, it was Bruce Sutter -- not Dennis Eckersley -- who ushered in the era of the 9th inning closer specialist. In the early '80s the Cubs began using Dick Tidrow in the 8th and Sutter in the 9th exclusively, to preserve his arm.
I just don't see how someone like Kirby Puckett can be considered ahead of him.
This is one comment that I'm sort of struggling with. Looking at Sutter's days with the Cubs:
I appreciate your comment regarding how fast Darrell Evans was dropped from the ballot. There seems to be a bias against consistently good but never superstar players who simply racked up great numbers.
It's kind of like Bill James' Milt Pappas vs. Don Drysdale argument in The Politics of Glory.
Evans is half the answer to one of my favorite trivia questions: name the two players with 400+ homers who are not in the Hall of Fame (excluding, of course, players who are not yet eligible). The other is Dave Kingman, of course.
Lou Whitaker also falls into this category. He seemed-- like Frank White, though White was never Whitaker's equal--to get better each year even well into his thirties. I'll never forget when he didn't have his jersey at the all-star game and they had to get a Tigers jersey from the concession stands and put a number 1 on it.
Thanks for speaking up for Darrell Evans as well as Lou Whitaker. Sheesh, between my stumping for both of them, my belief that Alan Trammell belongs, and my dredging up Willie Hernandez' '84 season, you could almost mistake me for a Tigers fan.
With Tom Henke included, Keith Woolner's ballot for the Hall of Fame is a good one. However, I think Lou Whitaker and Gary Carter are marginal picks: perhaps worthy, but not by much. Also, I think Ron Guidry is somewhat short of the HOF.
That said, I am writing to offer up a quick metric for judging Hall worthiness for relief pitchers. My main measurement is park adjusted ERA+. Generally speaking, the higher a pitcher's (park adjusted) ERA+, the more he belongs in the HOF.
A second factor I employ is the number of innings he pitched in his career. At a bare minimum, to qualify for the HOF as a reliever, a pitcher must have at least 750 IP as a reliever. (I do not give any extra credit for innings pitched as a starter.) Why use 750 IP? Because, at a bare minimum, a full season for a good reliever includes 75 IP. So 750 IP represents a minimum of 10 seasons pitching in relief.
Any reliever who had 750 IP or more and an ERA+ of 140 or higher qualifies. For each additional 75 IP (up to 1,500 IP), the ERA+ standard drops by 2 points, as follows:
I knew that Guidry would be a controversial pick, but though his career was short, he was the best overall pitcher in baseball for a decade or so (according to VORP), and that seems Hall worthy to me.
Enjoyed your column on the upcoming HOF ballot. I was particularly interested in the fact Jim Rice and Dwight Evans scored comparably. I assume this is over their careers? How do their peaks compare? I assume Rice's five best seasons were 77-79, 83, and 86. For Evans, I assume 81-82, 84, 87, and 88 perhaps?
What is your feeling on the defensive merits of the two? While active, Evans was of course highly regarded, and Rice was not, though Rice did receive some credit for his ability to "play the Wall," whatever that means. I doubt either of them adds significantly to his case on defensive merits.
Yes, the VORP listed in the article was for their career, and considering them just as outfielders, not split into LF vs. RF.
THE ONLY PERSON I WANT TO SEE ON THE HALL OF FAME BALLOT IS PETE ROSE. ALL OTHERS ARE SECOND. UNTIL HE IS PUT ON THE BALLOT WHERE HE BELONGS, IT IS NOT A TRUE HALL OF FAME. BASEBALL BETTER GET IT TOGETHER AND DO SOMETHING GOOD FOR THE GAME.
Yeah, that's an interesting topic.