Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 5, 2005
BASEBALL: Hall of Pretty Good Pitchers
You will recall that last month I took a look at the best pitchers in baseball history by ERA+, translated into a common 4.50-league-ERA environment, ranging from Pedro Martinez at 2.69 to a couple of pitchers at 3.46. But I decided to look at the other end: of the pitchers in the Hall of Fame, which ones fare most poorly in measuring their ERAs relative to the league and park? I came up with a list of 13 pitchers with ERAs that would be no better than 4.00 (an ERA+ of 112 or worse). Here they are, the least effective pitchers in the Hall of Fame, ranked from the bottom up:
A few of these guys are truly embarrassing Hall of Famers - Marquard, Haines, Chesbro. Hoyt, Pennock and to some extent Ruffing are in the Hall mainly because of Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio, and in fact, Chief Bender was also the beneficiary of spectacular offensive support, while carrying workloads that were unremarkable for his day.
The case against Catfish just grows: his numbers look good at first glance, but only because he bunched all his best years in a row and had them pitching for a great team in a pitcher's park in a pitcher's era. For his career, Catfish Hunter was 129-79 with a 2.70 ERA at home, but just 95-87 with a 3.92 ERA on the road. There's little doubt that Catfish would have ended up nowhere near Cooperstown if he'd pitched for the teams that Nolan Ryan, Bert Blyleven, Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton pitched for between 1970 and 1975 (there's a reason, even besides his ERAs, why in 27 years in the major leagues, Ryan never once finished as far as 7 games over .500).
In my view, some of these guys still merit a spot in the Hall due to their extreme durability outweighing their less-than-greatness: Galvin, Ryan and Sutton all cleared 5200 innings and 320 career wins, with Ryan enduring for 27 years, Sutton scarcely missing a turn in the rotation for more than two decades, and Galvin averaging 55 starts and 481 innings over an 11-year period, a consistently heavy workload even for his day. You could make a similar argument for Wynn.
Also, if you're wondering, here's how five of the major pitchers on the Hall's outside looking in stack up:
Yet again, Blyleven does well, Morris poorly and Tiant better than you might think when you look at their ERAs, and Blyleven stands at the fore in innings as well, coming in just south of the 5000 inning mark.