Thursday, November 18, 2010
Do Cy Young results signal Hall of Fame shift?
Does Felix Hernandez's Cy Young Award (Craig Calcaterra asks) signal that Hall of Fame voters will worry less about wins and more about the things a pitcher can control?
I’m not hopeful. Partially because there is so much more of a time investment and an emotional investment in Hall of Fame voting than in Cy Young voting, and it won’t be easy for the Jon Heymans of the world to reverse themselves from silly positions they’ve taken in the past. It’s a lot easier for someone to have foolishly overlooked Pedro Martinez in a given year and vote for Felix Hernandez this year than it is for them to simply reverse course on Blyleven or Morris when they have a lot of ink invested in arguing against, or for, their induction. In for a penny, in for a pound.
But the biggest reason this won’t change is because we’re talking about different voters for the most part. There are only a couple of dozen of voters for each postseason award, and they tend to be active reporters who are deeply involved in the day-to-day of baseball, including the debates over player value. It’s a smaller but smarter set than the large, bloated Hall of Fame voter pool, many of whom haven’t actively worked in baseball for some time, if they ever did. They’re going to lag, I fear, and lag badly.
So yes, today’s Cy Young vote was nice. But a month or two from now, when we get into Hall of Fame season, look for us to be right back into arguing why wins shouldn’t matter when assessing pitchers, and look for that argument to continue to be largely unheeded.
I'm not sure exactly what Gleeman thinks is going to happen when Hall of Fame season rolls around. There seems to be an excellent chance that Bert Blyleven is elected this winter, and that was true before Thursday's results.
Anyway, Blyleven actually won a lot of games: 287. Tommy John and Jim Kaat would be next on that list, with 288 and 283 wins. But there are lots of pitchers with fewer than 283 wins in the Hall of Fame. These guys have had their problems because they're not remembered as dominant pitchers. Which is not completely unfair.
Blyleven's the best of the group, obviously. More strikeouts, better (adjusted) ERA. The great majority of pitchers with between 200 and 300 wins who aren't in the Hall of Fame simply weren't dominant. Blyleven's ERA+ is 118; essentially, he was 18 percent better than league, over his entire career. Mike Mussina was 23 percent better, and is likely to be elected someday. Pedro Martinez was 54 percent better, Curt Schilling was 28 percent better, and John Smoltz was 25 percent better. All of those guys will be elected someday.
To find a pitcher with a better ERA than Blyleven's and more than 200 wins who probably won't be in the Hall of Fame someday, you have to drop all the way down to Kevin Brown: 211 wins, 127 ERA+. Billy Pierce is right there with Brown. And that's essentially it.
Generally speaking, the Hall of Fame voters have been kind to pitchers with excellent ERAs and more than 200 wins. Blyleven, for whatever reasons, has been an anomaly. It's probably true that if he'd won 20 games more than just once, he'd have fared somewhat better in the Hall of Fame balloting over the years. But excepting the eventual and probable ignoring of Brown, I don't really see any Hall of Fame candidates who are likely to suffer badly from the voters' supposed fealty to the God of the W. And if Jack Morris gains from it ... Hey, nobody's perfect.