Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 6, 2004
BASEBALL: Scrambled Eck
OK, few Hall of Fame candidacies conflict me as much as Dennis Eckersley. Let's run a little chart to explain why:
Now, you can see that Eck was a better pitcher than Steib or Key - he pitched more innings and did more (in terms of K/BB ratio) to control the game rather than rely on his defense. But the difference isn't that great. The problem, of course, is in even trying to compare him to contemporaries who are starters . . . Eckersley's career high in Win Shares is 24 in 1978 and 1979, but other than that he was a mediocre starting pitcher. The really defining numbers are from his 11 years in Oakland and St. Louis; I don't have time for a full comparison here, but I'll offer a few comps for perspective:
* - Excludes ill-fated year as a starter
Again, the comparison is not a bad one for the Eck, although he hardly stands out in this crowd, and even adding some subpar years as a closer in to the mix, he's still behind Gossage, Sutter, Quisenberry and Henke in innings for the comparison seasons.
In the end, Eckersley is too much unlike anyone else to really compare him. If I had a ballot, I might well leave him off just because it's too tough to see where the line is for relievers. But I can't really argue with wanting him in, given how the combination of his two careers elevates him above your typical also-ran HoF candidate like Steib or a short-career closer like Henke; he's really Steib and Henke combined. I've got to commit here, so I'll swallow hard and say IN.