The most underappreciated players ever, by one worthwhile measure.
It's February, so perhaps it's not timely to write about the All-Star Game, but blame Sam Miller, who raised on Effectively Wild a few weeks ago the Sandy Alomar Conundrum: specifically, how did such a mediocre player manage to appear in six All-Star Games?
You know well that the selection of All-Star rosters is weird and fouled up in all sorts of ways. The popularity-contest aspect has been around as long as fan voting has, and even before that was the method du jour, you might still expect that fame played an important role because the Game had to sell tickets. Managers leaning toward their own players for reserve roles is an entirely understandable decision ("Coach, why'd you take Smith over me?") and yet one that doesn't necessarily result in the best possible roster. Starting pitchers are now routinely passed over if their spot in their real team's rotation interferes with their ability to pitch in the Game itself. Relief pitchers not named Mariano Rivera populate the rosters in a weird homage to the idea of relievers as uniquely special and valuable players rather than simply failed starters. Good measures of total player value tend to be ignored come All-Star time in favor of raw offensive stats and good players sometimes get shafted because some random hamster had a great first half that he'll never ever repeat in his life.
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On Brian Wilson and the etiquette of being different.
As you no doubt know by now, the San Francisco Giants opted not to tender a contract to their All-Star closer, Brian Wilson. He was due a league-mandated minimum of just under $7 million, and was probably hoping for something closer to $10 million. Apparently the Giants decided he wasn’t worth it, and Wilson is now a free agent. News reports have described Wilson as “angry” that the Giants chose not to re-sign him and he is likely to sign elsewhere. It remains to be seen what kind of deal Wilson will get on the open market. On the one hand, Proven All-Star Closer; on the other, those peripherals, and coming off Tommy John surgery. Intriguing hot-stove action!
When the news came down about the Giants' non-tender, there was some recrimination among San Francisco fans, but not a ton. He was the guy on the mound when they won it all in 2010. His numbers in 2010 were eye-popping: a 2.18 FRA and 1.7 WARP to go along with his 48 saves and World Series ring. He was really good. But then the Giants won the whole thing again in 2012, without Wilson, thereby “proving” that he wasn’t necessary. I heard and read the same thing over and over from Giants fans: Many/most/all said that, while they loved him as a player, they “wouldn’t miss his act.”
As you no doubt know by now, the San Francisco Giants opted not to tender a contract to their All-Star closer, Brian Wilson. He was due a league-mandated minimum of just under $7 million, and was probably hoping for something closer to $10 million. Apparently the Giants decided he wasn’t worth it, and Wilson is now a free agent. News reports have described Wilson as “angry” that the Giants chose not to re-sign him and say he is likely to sign elsewhere. It remains to be seen what kind of deal Wilson will get on the open market. On the one hand, Proven All-Star Closer; on the other, those peripherals, and coming off Tommy John surgery. Intriguing hot-stove action!
When the news came down about the Giants' non-tender, there was some recrimination among San Francisco fans, but not a ton. He was the guy on the mound when they won it all in 2010. His numbers in 2010 were eye-popping: he notched a 2.18 FRA and 1.7 WARP to go along with his 48 saves and World Series ring. He was really good. But then the Giants won the whole thing again in 2012—without Wilson—thereby proving that he wasn’t, strictly speaking, necessary. What I heard and read over and over from Giants fans was that they “wouldn’t miss his act.”
I don’t mean Blyleven the pitcher or Blyleven the person. The world could probably use more of those. I’m talking about Blyleven the Overlooked Hall of Fame Candidate. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad Blyleven is in the Hall of Fame. He deserves to be. His induction was a triumph of critical thinking over snap judgments, of evidence over empty arguments, of the hard work and research of writers like Jay Jaffe and Rich Lederer over the bluster and baseless self-assurance of others in the mainstream—an infinitesimal triumph, in the grand scheme of things, but a triumph nonetheless.
Jay recaps the careers of the soon-to-be-HOF-inducted Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven.
The Hall of Fame induction weekend is upon us, and while I've taken issue with the way the institution is treating this year's recipients of the Frick, Spink, and O'Neil awards, I'm particularly excited to see this year’s class of BBWAA and Expansion Era Committee choices—Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, and Pat Gillick—honored. Having watched both Alomar and Blyleven excel with multiple teams over the years, it was both a privilege and a labor of love to advocate their election to Cooperstown.
New Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven talks about his fascination with numbers, along with news and notes from around the major leagues.
When you think of Bert Blyleven the pitcher, you think of someone who won 287 games, struck out 3,701, threw 60 shutouts and had a curveball that nearly defied gravity. You don't think of a guy who memorized the career innings pitched totals of such greats as Cy Young and Walter Johnson.
One of the two players elected into the Hall of Fame yesterday, Blyleven was a master with the hook.
There is some argument as to whether Candy Cummings or Fred Goldsmith invented the curveball, but there is no argument about this: Bert Blyleven perfected it and rode it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, his election was a slow curve that was thrown to Blyleven, not being elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America until his 14thseason of eligibility despite 287 victories and 3,701 strikeouts.
“It was 14 years of praying and waiting, but I want to thank the baseball writers for finally getting it right,” he said when his election was announced on January 5.
Two men finally get their due in Cooperstown, while several other qualified players are locked out.
Our long national nightmare is over. On Wednesday at 2 p.m., the National Baseball Hall of Fame opened its doors to Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, two overwhelmingly qualified candidates who missed gaining entry from the BBWAA last year by a combined 13 votes. Both cleared the mandatory 75 percent threshold with room to spare, with Alomar drawing 90 percent of the record 581 votes cast during his second year on the ballot, and Blyleven garnering 79.7 percent in his 14th year of eligibility. They'll join Pat Gillick on the dais in Cooperstown, New York on July 24.
Bert Blyleven, in his final year of eligibility, makes his last stand for Cooperstown.
It's fair to say that in these quarters, the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot is the most hotly anticipated one in the eight seasons since I began covering the Cooperstown beat for Baseball Prospectus. That's because when the 2010 ballot results were announced back on January 6, Bert Blyleven fell just five votes short of enshrinement, receiving 74.2 percent of the necessary 75 percent. As disappointing as his close-but-no-cigar showing in his 13th year on the ballot might have been, Blyleven's tally represented a significant surge from the 62.7 percent he received the year before. After a long, hard climb from his having receiving less than 20 percent in each of his first three years on the ballot, his election is so close that the pitcher and all of those who have supported him over the years can practically taste it.
Is this the year for Bert Blyleven or Jack Morris? And what of Lee Smith?
In a tradition as old as my Hall of Fame ballot analysis series itself predating even the JAWS acronym, we come to the pitchers on the BBWAA ballot for the Hall of Fame mere hours ahead of the announcement of the voting results. As with last year, it's a short list, featuring three holdovers and four newcomers. Among this group, Bert Blyleven remains the standout. Now in his 13th year on the ballot, he's polled above 60 percent in each of the past two years. While the work done by statheads here and elsewhere to boost his candidacy has gotten through to the voters, he's running out of time.
The best pitcher not in the Hall of Fame discusses his curveball, his contemporaries, and why he's glad he is not of this era.
In all likelihood, Bert Blyleven is the best pitcher not in the Hall of Fame. Blessed with one of the greatest curveballs the game has ever seen, Blyleven stands among the elite in several statistical categories, ranking fifth all-time in strikeouts (3,701), ninth in games started (685) and shutouts (60), and 24th in wins (287). A workhorse who hurled 4,970 innings over 22 seasons, Blyleven pitched well in his limited number of post-season appearances, going 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA while earning World Series rings with the 1979 Pirates and 1987 Twins. A native of Holland who served as the pitching coach for the Dutch team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Blyleven is currently in his 14th season as a color commentator for the Minnesota Twins.