December 12, 2007
BASEBALL: Goose, Dawson and the Hall of Fame Debate
I participated in a roundtable discussion of this year's Hall of Fame ballot over at Armchair GM, arguing in favor of Gossage and against Andre Dawson. David Pinto, Dayn Perry, Matt Sussman, and Rich Lederer also participated (no points for guessing who Lederer argues in favor of). Go check it out, along with the other fine submissions.
Numbers aside, I can support Goose for the HOF but not Dawson. Goose was a dominant force during times in his career; he set a modern standard for closers.
Dawson was fine player who brought his best every day. I remember seeing him at Wrigley Field as a Cub. Just kneeling in the on deck circle his eyes burned just waiting to go at it with the pitcher. A fine player and a true competitor, but not a HOFer. Sorry Andre!
No discussion on Tim Raines?
The Raines piece is still in the works.
Raines was not a factor for enough years to be a HOF'er. Other than that and the fact that Big Mac should go in this year, I agree with Lee.
Good analysis, Crank, on the Hall of Fame candidates. Don't you think the baseball writers should write up a summary of why they voted for or against the candidates, sort of like a Supreme Court opinion, informing us of their choices and the reasoning. A roundtable like this one would be illuminating. It will never happen, I know, but how interesting would it all be if it did happen.
I don't know about not enough years as a factor. From 1981-1993 he was the 2nd best lead off man in baseball. He is #5 on the all-time steals list and the number #1 percentage guy and considering he stole 808 bases that's pretty damn good. His .294/.425/.385 is quite solid (better than Lou Brock for instance although Brock did play in the 60s). He went to 8 straight All-Star games and stole over 70 bases 6 straight years (including 1981 in which only 88 games were played and given a full-season may have taken a shot at Ricky's record) and over 40 for 11 of 12 missing only in a season of 109 games with 33 steals. His hitting numbers match up favorably to Rickey's .279/.419/.401. I'm not saying he's a slam-dunk but the four lead-off guys in front of him in steals are all HOFers. He is arguably in the top-5 of all lead-off guys. If he had done it playing for glamour teams like the A's (of the 80s) and the Yankees instead of the Expos this might be less open for discussion. Maybe, though, they should put the mighty and feared Gary Templeton in.
One consistent criterion in the HOF debate seems to be quantity not quality. Note the fact that Bert Blyleven is seriously being considered for Cooperstown while Ron Guidry isn't even on the radar.
Blyleven's career ERA: 3.31
Guidry's career ERA: 3.29
Blyleven's career winning PCT: .534
Guidry's career winning PCT: .651
Blyleven's career WHIP: 1.198
Guidry's career WHIP: 1.184
Blyleven 20 win seasons: 1 (1973)
Guidry 20 win seasons: 3 (1978, 1983, 1985)
Blyleven Career Highs (W, ERA, K, ShO) - 20, 2.52, 258, 9)
Guidry Career Highs (W, ERA, K, ShO) - 25, 1.74, 248, 9)
Blyleven Post-Season record: 5-1 2.47 ERA
Guidry Post Season record: 5-2 3.02 ERA
Blyleven career fielding percentage: .969
Guidry career fielding percentage: .981
Yet no one, including I assuming Rich Lederer, is itching to see the Louisiana Lightning inducted, for no reason other than the fact that Guidry started only 325 games in his career, 360 fewer than Blyleven. Sure, Guidry was generally better at his job than Blyleven was, but Bly was inferior for far longer.
Note that Guidry's numbers in the categories I've highlighted also compare quite favorably against the likes of recent inductees like Sutton and Bunning. But it doesn't matter. In the end, the prolific will always trump the terrific, at least in the minds of the baseball writers of America.
Guidry was a better pitcher than Blyleven on his best day, and his best season, but he really wasn't if you get beyond that. Blyleven's ERA is a smidge higher, but it's a smidge higher over massively more innings, and pitching into a higher-offense era. And he would certainly have had more 20-win seasons if he'd pitched for teams as good as Guidry's.
Guidry's career wasn't enormously short, but he missed a ton of time with injuries, and making the Hall with the amount of work he did requires Koufax-like dominance, which he didn't have.
Injuries really weren't a problem with Guidry for most of his career. Once established as a starter in 1977, Guidry would go on to average 29.5 starts per season between 1977 and 1986... and that's including the strike-shortened 1981 season when he only made 21 starts. Discount the '81 strike season, and Guidry's average starts per season during that span rises to 30.4. Now if we cancel out the 1977 season, where Guidry started the year in the bullpen, and his starts per season average during that span rises even higher to 31.1 -- hardly the mark of a career riddled by injuries.
No, the real obstacle in Guidry's career was, to put it simply, age. Guidry didn't make the Yankees' starting rotation until he was 26 years old. Before that time, he spent a number of seasons as the Yankees' mop-up man and emergency spot starter, constantly riding the elevator between AAA and the Bronx and back again. Blyleven, by contrast, was established as a starter at 19 years of age. By the time Bly turned 26 he already had 279 major league starts under his belt -- and more accumulated losses during those seven seasons than Guidry would lose during his entire career.
I must also take issue with the notion that Guidry posted a better W-L record simply because he played for superior offensive teams. Take, for example, 1978, Guidry's standout year. Here is the line for the Yanks that year:
Now just for fun let's compare those numbers with the '73 Minnesota Twins -- the season when Blyleven would post his career high in wins. This is how the Twins fared in those same categories:
Despite pitching for a team evenly matched in its ability to manufacture runs, Blyleven won five fewer games than his opposite number while losing fifteen more.
And lest we forget, Blyleven himself was no stranger to the post season, having played on one division winner and two World Series champs. How did Blyleven fare during those heady years? Well, let's take a gander:
In 1970, when the Twins won their division with a 98-64 record, Blyleven managed only a 10-9 record.
In 1979 for the World champion Pirates (98-64), Blyleven won only 12 games despite making 37 starts and being backed by an offense that included Stargell (.281/.352/.552), Madlock (.320/.390/.469), and Parker (.310/.380/.526 ).
In 1987 for the World champion Twins (85-77), Blyleven won 15 games but lost 12, despite the fact that the Twins that season scored more total runs (786) than either the 1970 Twins (744) or the '79 Pirates (775).
In short, Blyleven had plenty of opportunities to distinguish himself as the superior pitcher but never did. A 22 year career with only one 20 game winning season to show for it can't be blamed entirely on meager offense.
Also, the argument that Guidry is unworthy of the Hall because he failed to put up Koufax-esque numbers could easily be applied to Blyleven. At least the Gid posted comparable numbers once in his career. Blyleven never came close.
So why are we even considering Blyleven? Again, longevity: the only criterion that seems to matter. If Blyleven had posted the same career winning pct/ERA/WHIP and seasonal career highs over a 10 year career, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. But protract those figures over a 22 year span, and what was unimpressive over a shorter career suddenly deserves a plaque next to Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.
This makes no sense.
Lastly, when we compare Guidry to recent HOF inductees, his numbers hold up remarkably well:
Player - Career ERA
Guidry - 3.29
Ryan - 3.19
Sutton - 3:26
Niekro - 3.35
Bunning - 3.27
Player - Career Winning PCT
Guidry - .651
Ryan - .526
Sutton - .559
Niekro - .537
Bunning - .549
Player - Career WHIP
Guidry - 1.184
Ryan - 1.247
Sutton - 1.142
Niekro - 1.268
Bunning - 1.179
Player - CG/Starts Pct.
Guidry - 29%
Ryan - 29%
Sutton - 24%
Niekro - 34%
Bunning - 29%
Player - 20 win seasons
Guidry - 3
Ryan - 2
Sutton - 1
Niekro - 2
Bunning - 1
Player - 15 loss seasons (or greater)
Guidry - 0
Ryan - 6
Sutton - 4
Niekro - 6
Bunning - 2
Player - 20 loss seasons
Guidry - 0
Ryan - 0
Sutton - 0
Niekro - 2
Bunning - 0
So explain to me, why again is Guidry out of the running?
Raines was an exceptional player who languished too long in Montreal and without question belongs in the HoF.Puckett(who also belongs),with his truncated career,is a better example of a guy who "was not a factor for enough years..." if you're going to use that specious argument.
I've spent many years rueing the Tigers trading Jim Bunning to the Phillies for the immortal Don Demeter.With Bunning on the mound,the Tigers would have gotten to one or two more World Series in addition to 1968.However,I think his inclusion has as much to do with his being a U.S. Senator as a ballplayer,and he lowers the bar for other pitchers,including Blyleven,Gossage,AND Guidry,who all belong in,Bunning or no Bunning.
I stand by my assessment of Guidry, which is that he was neither workhorse enough nor brilliant enough to make the Hall off a ten-year prime. The fact that his ERA, WHIP, etc, are similar to those of pitchers who threw twice as many innings as he did just isn't that persuasive.Guidry was a HOF-calliber pitcher in his prime, but there are three of them for every guy who actually has a plaque. Guidry is Bret Saberhagen or Orel Hershiser, which is good company to be in, but they aren't going to Cooperstown, either.
Then why doesn't Cooperstown change the rules and stipulate from hereon in that only 20+ season ballplayers will be eligible for the Hall? Because that's where this kind of thinking leads. A pitcher who wins 20 games once in a 22 year career is somehow more impressive than a guy who wins 20 games three times in a shorter career. Heck, a pitcher who loses 20 games in a season twice in a career is worth more than a pitcher who never lost more than 12 games in a season.
Dizzy Dean should have considered himself lucky he pitched in the WW2 era; by today's standards he never would have made it into the Hall.
We get it that you're a big Guidry fan. However, there is no reason to denigrate Blyleven in order to make Guidry's case. If Guidry is a valid HoF candidate his performance will show it. Truth is both candidates did not have careers that made them clear-cut no doubt Hall of Famers. Whether you like it or not, being able to reliably toe the mound every five days is an important quality in a pitcher. On their best days guys like Kerry Woods are clearly better than the Don Suttons of the baseball world. Sutton's value was clearly in being able to take the ball time his turn came around and give a good to very good performance. Ask a manager what pitcher they prefer. And if a pitcher can do that for 20 years that is pretty damn impressive considering the strain that pitching places on an arm. If Guidry were elected he would not be the weakest choice in the HoF. He had a great peak. His biggest stumbling block is he really only pitched for 10 years and only cleared 200 innings 7 times. You are right that his average type stats (ERA, WHIP) are comparable or better than others in the HoF. That means less when you realize he missed the decline phase of his career. Blyleven maintaining a similar ERA for twice as many innings is obviously more impressive. Ask anyone who understands baseball stats and they will tell you that wins are a poor way to measure a pitchers season. Compared to a career a season is a small sample size and a run of bad luck which evens out over a career may cause a pitcher to be an 18 or 19 game winner instead of a 21 or 22. Blyleven (IIRC) had a lot of losses where he gave up one or two runs. That was a winning effort, but if he happened to face a pitcher who threw a shutout it was marked as a loss. A more recent example, this past season CC Sabathia outdueled Johan Santana 5 times. Does that make Santana a lesser pitcher? No, it just means his team did not hit Sabathia very well. For his career Santana has a record of 93 - 44 which I believe is more indicative of his performance. By the time Santana is considered for the HoF his performance in 2007 against one team will be a forgotten blip with no impact to his total career. However, for 2007 his 0-5 against the Tribe made him look inaccurately like a rather average pitcher at 15 - 13.
Again, I reiterate: under current rules, a potential candidate must have played a minimum of ten major league seasons before he can qualify for the HOF. That's it. Ten years. Yet almost everyone here seems to pooh-pooh such "lesser" ballplayers out of hand, believing that only those who've slugged it out in the majors for at least twenty years are worthy of enshrinement.
Therefore I assume none of you would have a problem with the rules being changed, at least for pitchers, so that the minimum requirement of years played would be raised to twenty. Right? After all, why leave the minimum at ten if you're going to thumb your nose at those ballplayers anyway?
And my appreciation of Guidry notwithstanding, I would have no problem with someone arguing, "Sorry, Guidry wasn't in Koufax's class (or Spahn's... or Seaver's... to say nothing of Young and Johnson)."
Fine and granted.
But guess what? Neither were Blyleven or Sutton or Bunning. And once you start letting such lesser competitors in, you potentially lower the bar for everyone else. Either admit both the Guidrys and the Blylevens of the world.. or leave them all out.
No one in their right mind would argue that Sandy Koufax doesn't belong in the HoF.But the fact is he's there because of a brilliant six year stretch(out of a twelve year career)during which he was as dominant a pitcher as baseball has seen.The other half of his career he was as forgettable a pitcher as baseball has seen.
While Guidry never reached the level of Koufax,there was a run of years in the 70's-80's when there was not another pitcher in baseball who was as automatic a win.Anyone who saw him pitch then,even Yankee haters like myself,has to acknowledge his dominance.
It's right to consider a player's longetivity (and their productivity over the long haul).But as DubiousD correctly points out,it takes 'only' 10 years to qualify for consideration.In my opinion,that 10 year benchmark becomes even more important in the case of pitchers,many good and even great ones whose careers have been unfortunately shortened by injury.
By the way,if not for his career altering injury,my friend Frank Tanana would be included in this discussion.From 1975-1978,he was scary good(facing him and Nolan Ryan back-to-back was a hitter's nightmare).He's an intelligent guy who was able to reinvent himself and have a long and productive(albeit not great)career.Given his pitching IQ and natural ability ( which included a 100 mph fastball),the HoF was certainly within reach for him.
Ron Guidry did not dominate baseball for ten years. He dominated it for one. His second through ninth best seasons were not as good as Blyleven's, and Blyleven had seven or eight more productive years on top of those.
I'm not arguing Guidry vs. Blyleven-I think they both belong.
I also didn't write that he dominated for 10 years.I'll admit my phrasing was inaccurate and thought it seemed hyperbolic when I reread it after posting-it would have been more precise to write 'he was as automatic a win as any pitcher in baseball.'He had a stretch from the late 70's to early 80's where he did dominate batters,as attested by him consistently placing among league leaders in WHIP and strikeouts.His excellence was recognized at the time by the multiple times he contended for the Cy Young.
No matter.He's not getting in.
Now you guys are moving the goal posts. Before it was about longevity. Now your argument is about dominance. You correctly point out that Koufax's record easily eclipses Guidry's, a fact I never argued against. If the criterion now is "dominance", then I have a question: how many seasons was Blyleven the most dominant pitcher in baseball? How many years did Sutton dominate? And Bunning?
By "you guys" I don't mean AnonE.Mouse. Check out the time stamp on our postings. :-)
Long-term excellence and short-term dominance are two different standards for the Hall, and there are certainly also blends between the two. Guidry doesn't meet anybody's standard of "long-term excellence", since he really only did ten years of full-time work over a fourteen year career. For short-career guys, he is certainly less dominant than Koufax, but "less dominant than Koufax" is not a damning indictment of one's HOF chances. The question is, does he have more in common with relatively short-term HOFers like Dizzy Dean and Lefty Gomez, or is he more like non-HOFers like Saberhagen, Hershiser, David Cone and Luis Tiant. I tend to think the latter.
And I,obviously,the former Jerry.Watching the guy pitch at the time,both from stadium seats and on television,he simply looked that good to me.
The latter four guys you mentioned,not quite there.In fact,some other guys I can think of who get into that same gray area as Saberhagen,et al, but don't strike me as deserving are Mickey Lolich,Jim Kaat,Tommy John,Jack Morris,and possibly even Jerry Koosman.
By the way,what are you folk's thoughts about Don Drysdale's inclusion?
One additional thought.Since you bring up the meteoric career of Dean,how about Denny McLain?
Jerry, are you making this up as you go along?
First the standard was longevity, then it was dominance, now it's excellence plus longevity in lieu of dominance, except for those ballplayers where dominance truly does matter, which in those cases would be ballplayers who failed to meet your earlier criterion of longevity.
Tell me this: if Blyleven truly was a more outstanding pitcher than Guidry, how come no one else recognized it when both were active players?
During his "brief" career, Guidry placed on six Cy Young ballots, winning one and finishing second on another occasion (to Saberhagen, as it happens). Blyleven placed on four Cy Young ballots, winning none and never finishing higher than third. This despite the fact that Blyleven pitched eight seasons more than Guidry -- more than enough time for Blyleven to even the score. Guidry also placed on five MVP ballots to Blyleven's two. If Blyleven truly outshadowed Guidry as you seem to proclaim, shouldn't the voting results have been reversed?
Now let's look at Sutton -- ol' Razor Blades. He made five Cy Young ballots, one less than Guidry (but never finishing higher than third) while making it to only one MVP ballot -- this despite a twenty-three year career. Maybe Sutton should have switched to Gillette.
The line on Bunning: once Cy Young nom, no awards, but five separate MVP ballots, tying him with Guidry. Bunning pitched seventeen years.
Phil Niekro: five Cy Young ballots, no wins, plus three MVP ballots over the span of a twenty-four year career.
So in every case we find Guidry edging out his "betters" for recognition by the baseball establishment. How else might one account for this strange turning of events? A cruel trick of the gods? Sunspots? Bush?
I think the error of your argument is your contention that it is an either or type deal. The Hall of Fame standards are poorly defined. The standards are in essence what the writers have made them over the decades. No one is saying a player must play 20 years to be enshrined. However, the ten year minimum is just that - the bare minimum. The voters have shown that just meeting the minimum will not get you elected unless you were beyond incredible for that period. Sandy Koufax is often cited as the most obvious example. Addie Joss is the other example people point to and he may have been a mistake enshrinement. Joss was a very good to great pitcher but only was in the majors for nine years - one short of the minimum. His career was cut short by TB. After Koufax the line blurs a little bit. There are hundreds of players who had a couple or even few great seasons but were unable to maintain that level long enough to garner enough support for election. Dale Murphy is a very good example. Two MVP awards and a good 5-6 year stretch where he was one of the top few players in his league. You keep raising the fact that Guidry won a CY award and got votes in other years. That is a point in his favor, but does not merit automatic induction. Two problems with that thought. First, it assumes the writers have gotten those previous votes correctly while simultaneously saying they are getting the HoF vote wrong. Second, you can quickly look at the list of players to win a CY or MVP and you'll realize that quite a few players have had a great season without having a good enough career to merit HoF enshrinement. Bob Welch, Frank Viola, Jack McDowell, Willie Hernandez, Steve Stone, Mike Flanagan, Jim Perry, Mike Cuellar all were CY winners. Denny McClain and Brett Saberhagen both won twice. On the everyday player side, Terry Pendleton, Kevin Mitchell, George Bell, Keith Hernandez, Don Mattingly, Fred Lynn, Thurmon Munson all won MVP awards but did NOT have careers that reach HoF standards. Eddie Murray never won an MVP but clearly had an MVP caliber career. As demonstration that the writers do not always get things right, look at the 1973 CY in the AL. Blyleven ended up 7th in the voting but had 20 wins, about the same ERA as the winner Palmer and 100 more K's. He had 17 losses which influenced the voters. However, he gave up 3 or less runs in 9 of those 17 losses.
I agree with you about the exclusion of all of those players except for Thurmon Munson.It's difficult to justify him being denied enshrinement when guys like Phil Rizzuto and Lou Boudreau are in.
Or Bill Mazeroski,by many accounts the greatest defensive second baseman in baseball history but maybe the worst hitter ever inducted into the HoF.
It's players like him and Bunning being included that sustain the argument for guys like Munson and Guidry.
largebill, I could just as easily turn your argument around. By your logic, the baseball writers who got Guidry's Cy Young and MVP votes wrong are the ones now getting his HOF credentials right.
As for the latter part of your counterargument, my point wasn't to say that, see, they voted for Guidry for Cy Young/MVP then, therefore he's worthy of enshrinement now. My point was to counterract Jerry's contention that Guidry only dominated once in his career. Clearly the sports writers of the time saw it differently. Guidry was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, not just 1978. From 1977 thru 1981 he was near-untouchable, except for a few dreadful starts in mid-1980 that threw his entire season off. Whatever else we may disagree on, let's at least agree on that.
As I've stated several times, I have no problem with anyone saying that Guidry pales in comparison with guys like Koufax. If Gid never makes the HOF, fine. Honest.
My problem is with people who continue to argue (whether they realize it or not) that Guidry didn't perform at a HOF-worthy level after fourteen seasons, but if he'd pitched twenty seasons at that same substandard level, then he'd be a shoo-in. Where's the logic in that?
To me longevity doesn't equal greatness. Greatness equals greatness. If Rickey Henderson had played only ten years in the bigs, I'd still want him in the Hall. But if Mickey Rivers had played twenty-five seasons on the field, I don't care how many milestones he would have crossed, I wouldn't have wanted him anywhere near Cooperstown because Mick the Quick was never that great.
I just don't think there's anything wrong with the idea that a Hall of Famer is determined by the total amount of value he is able to deliver in his career. The longer the career, the less average value it requires.
I don't happen to see Blyleven vs Guidry as an example of peak value vs career value, because I think that unless you are excessively fond of W/L records, Blyleven at his peak was as good or better than Guidry. They are the same age, and Blyleven won 80 games before Guidry managed to get out of the minors, and 33 after Guidry was retired. And when I lined up Guidry's fourteen seasons next to Blyleven's corresponding ones, I rated each of them better in five seasons, with the rest even.
But I think if you are comparing Guidry to someone like Don Sutton, who really was not as good a pitcher as Guidry at his peak, the fact that the guy was a good enough and healthy enough pitcher to stay in a major league rotation twice as long, and win 150 more games has to count for something.
So in other words:
Blyleven wins 80 games before Guidry's major league debut. Point in Blyleven's favor.
Blyleven loses 75 games before Guidry's major league debut. Not worth mentioning.
Blyleven wins 33 games after Guidry's retirement. Edge: Blyleven.
Blyleven loses 24 games after Guidry's retirement. Non-issue.
Sutton won 154 more games than Guidry, so that counts in his favor. Sutton also lost 165 more games, but heck, let's not count that against him.
Teams chose to pitch Don Sutton enough to have 319 more decisions than Ron Guidry. I think that does tell us something about their respective merits as pitchers. Maybe the Yankees were stupid, and Guidry could have won 15 games a year from 1971-75. Or maybe not.
I think Rice and Guidry fall into nearly the same exact category. For about half his career Rice has HOF numbers. If you take his best 7 years they average out to .315/.587/.375 32 HRs, 31 2Bs, 7 3Bs, 195 hits, 116 RBIs. If he did that for a few more years he would be gold. However the rest of his career averages out to .279/.483/.330 20 HRs, 20 2Bs, 4 3Bs, 145 Hits, 84 RBI which is fairly unimpressive. He had 2 transcendent seasons and 5 very, very good seasons. Given that the rest of his career was lackluster the good is just not good enough and the extreme high is a few seasons too short.
Guidry had 5 excellent years that included 1 transcendent year. He was 102-33 in those 5 and 68-58 in the other 9 (really just 7). Going 16-23 in the last 3 years of his career does not help the case for him either. He's a just miss for me since he lacks a level of brilliance over a more sustained period and his good is too little to set off the average/bad.
Bill Simmons once suggested a HOF that was tiered so at the top you had the few legends of the game, the floor below were the excellent ballplayers, the next perennial all-starts, etc.
I am a Sox fan, I dislike the Yankees, I don't think Blyleven should be in and I think the HOF voting is so broadly categorized that it is impossible to come up with any definitive pattern. Some guys don't vote for Seaver or Ryan or Teddy Ballgame or Ruth.
I like Jim's Guidry-Rice analogy. I never thought about comparing the two's careers before, but he's absolutely right.
Even more ironic is that both should have peaked in the same season.
You brought up some good points about Guidry vis a vis the likes of Blyleven. I think the baseball HOF is perhaps the weirdest and most esoteric of hall the sports HOFs. To me guys like Blyleven who never really did that much to be "famous" (although I guess coming out of the pen in Game 5 against the Orioles and pitching shut-out ball should count for something) but were consistent over a long stretch of time aren't really HOFers to me. Blyleven, as you pointed out, wasn't really famous in his day. I doubt many people were going, "Hey, Bert Blyleven is pitching today, we gotta get tickets!" Guidry certainly inspired that sort of fervor and isn't that what "fame" is really about? That and maybe a colletion of moments that define a guy. (The argument that Blyleven lost a whole bunch of close/low scoring games works against him in my opinion). I still think Guidry misses for the reasons I stated earlier but I would pick him over Blyleven if one had to go in because it is clear his ceiling was way higher than Blyleven's ever was. Thanks for the comparisons and stats as it got me thinking about Rice (who I loved) in comparison to Guidry (who I hated) and why they are similar to me.
Back when I was a young Yankee fan, I naturally despised Rice, but in retrospect I realize he was one of baseball's greats, HOFer or not, and I regret not appreciating him more when he was on the playing field.