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The Case Against Blyleven
Posted: 14 September 2007 06:10 PM   [ Ignore ]

It seems most baseball fans think Bert Blyleven is worthy of the Hall of Fame, while he’s only getting moderate support from sportswriters in the HOF voting.

Fans are adamant about Blyleven not getting in, saying “It’s ridiculous!” or “He’s a slam dunk case!” or “He’s the most deserving player not in.” These overreaching statements lead me to believe that they’re not looking at the data, because at best he’s a borderline case, and Ron Santo, Dick Allen, Rich Gossage, Darrell Evans, Keith Hernandez, Ted Simmons, Minnie Minoso, Jack Morris and Dale Murphy all have more compelling cases than Blyleven does. 

I think any argument which claims Blyleven belongs in the Hall of Fame can be effectively refuted, so give it your best shot.

A few preliminary questions for Blyleven supporters:
-Do you feel 287 wins is enough to qualify a pitcher for the Hall of Fame?
-Was there ever a three-year period (or longer) in Blyleven’s career where he was one of the five best pitchers in baseball for that period? If so, when? If not, don’t you think that’s a reasonable standard to start with?
-Do you think Blyleven’s lackluster Cy Young voting (3rd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th) means that the voters didn’t appreciate him, and if so, why didn’t they?
-What do you consider to be Blyleven’s two best seasons?

I will support my position with various evidence as the discussion goes along. I’ll start off by challenging the myth that Blyleven played on poor run-scoring teams, because I know that’s implied every time someone tries to defend his mediocre won-loss record.

ARGUMENT I

Let’s look at his 10 best ERA+ seasons, in order starting with his best:

1973—158, 20-17, 325 IP, Minnesota 6% OVER league scoring average. And yet he won only 3 more games than he lost.

1977—151, 14-12, 234 IP, Texas 4% OVER league scoring average. And yet he won only 2 more games than he lost

1974—142, 17-17, 281 IP, Minnesota just barely OVER league scoring average. And yet he won no more games than he lost.

1984—142, 19-7, 245 IP, Cleveland 5% OVER league scoring average.
Finally, his W-L reflected that of a great pitcher.

1989—140, 17-5, 241 IP, California 3% UNDER league scoring average.
Again, his W-L reflected that of a great pitcher.

1985—134, 17-16, 293 IP, Cleveland (9-11) barely UNDER, Minnesota (8-5) 4% UNDER league scoring average. Still, he won only 1 more game than he lost.

1975—129, 15-10, 275 IP, Minnesota 5% OVER league scoring average. About what would be expected for a decent pitcher in terms of W-L.

1971—127, 16-15, 278 IP, Minnesota 5% OVER league scoring average. And yet he won only 1 more game than he lost.

1981—126, 11-7, 159 IP, Cleveland 2% OVER league scoring average. About what would be expected for a decent pitcher in terms of W-L.

1976—125, 13-16, 297 IP, Minnesota (4-5) 4% OVER, Texas (9-11) 5% UNDER league scoring average. About what would be expected for a decent pitcher in terms of W-L.

10-year total (his ten best seasons)
149-122 (.549)
His teams averaged 2% OVER the league scoring during that time (he was not a victim of playing for bad teams). Let’s repeat this… 2% OVER the league scoring for the ten years of his best ERA+ seasons.

An average pitcher would be expected to have a .509 winning percentage on those teams, or 138-133 given that number of decisions. In his ten best seasons, Blyleven was merely 11 wins above an average pitcher, or a paltry 1.1 wins per season above an average pitcher. And those were his ten “best” seasons. This is not Hall of Fame material.

Or let’s look at his three best seasons of ERA+...

3-year total
51-46 (.525)
His teams averaged 3% OVER the league scoring during that time.

An average pitcher would be expected to have a .513 winning percentage on those teams, or 50-47. In his three best seasons, he was 1 win above an average pitcher, or only 0.3 wins per season. Not all that great.

Do you still think it was his team’s offenses that kept him from having good W-L records?

I have a further reflection that refutes this myth, but I’ll wait to hear other arguments first.

Posted: 14 September 2007 06:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]

If you perform a search on this site, you will find numerous threads as to whether Blyleven should in the HOF.  I recommend you review all these before making such posts.  The won-loss record issued has been discussed ad nauseaum

Posted: 18 September 2007 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]

Thanks for the tip. I was looking through different forums, and hadn’t seen anything.

Posted: 20 September 2007 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]

you need to find out hat the team scored on the days he was pitching, NOT their avg for the year.

Posted: 17 January 2008 10:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]

Great teams win games and great pitchers win games. The following is al ist of the 10 best season of Blyleven’s peers plus Koufax and Dean. As you can see Blyleven is better than Ryan and has a better winning percentage then Niekro. I guess the losing records posted by the pitchers the rest of their careers made them Hall of Famers.


  Win Loss Win Pct >500
Clemens Roger NYE 197 69 0.741 128
Johnson Randy NYE 187 66 0.739 121
Maddux Greg NYE 184 74 0.713 110
Carlton Steve HOF 198 89 0.690 109
Seaver Tom HOF 192 85 0.693 107
Palmer Jim HOF 200 94 0.680 106
Marichal Juan HOF 203 97 0.677 106
Martinez Pedro NYE 163 60 0.731 103
Glavine Tom NYE 182 79 0.697 103
Mussina Mike NYE 171 79 0.684 92
John Tommy No 157 68 0.698 89
Gooden Dwight No 152 65 0.700 87
Gibson Bob HOF 191 105 0.645 86
Wells David NYE 162 77 0.678 85
Schilling Curt NYE 165 80 0.673 85
Guidry Ron No 163 79 0.674 84
Pettitte Andy NYE 169 87 0.660 82
Morris Jack No 174 92 0.654 82
Koufax Sandy HOF 161 81   0.665   80
Moyer Jamie NYE 151 72 0.677 79
Cone David NYE 150 72 0.676 78
Sutton Don HOF 166 91 0.646 75
Welch Bob NO 161 87 0.649 74
Hunter Catfish HOF 180 106 0.629 74
McNally Dave No 158 85 0.650 73
Cuellar Mike No 172 101 0.630 71
Perry Gaylord HOF 188 117 0.616 71
Key Jimmy No 149 80 0.651 69
Rogers Kenny NYE 144 76 0.655 68
Smoltz John NYE 156 88 0.639 68
Dean Dizzy HOF 150 83   0.644   67
Brown Kevin NYE 151 84 0.643 67
Tiant Luis No 167 100 0.625 67
Jenkins Fergie HOF 203 136 0.599 67
Martinez Dennis No 141 77 0.647 64
Bunning Jim HOF 174 110 0.613 64
Burdette Lew No 167 104 0.616 63
SaberhagenBret no 144 82 0.637 62
Candelaria John No 134 73 0.647 61
Blue Vida No 162 102 0.614 60
Kaat Jim No 173 113 0.605 60
Gullett Don No 109 50 0.686 59
Hershiser Orel No 156 97 0.617 59
Niekro Phil HOF 167 109 0.605 58
Stewart Dave No 147 91 0.618 56
Blyleven Bert No 154 99 0.609 55
Maloney Jim No 134 80 0.626 54
Koosman Jerry No 156 102 0.605 54
Martinez Ramon No 124 71 0.636 53
Reuss Jerry No 151 98 0.606 53
Pappas Milt No 150 98 0.605 52
Leonard Dennis No 146 95 0.606 51
Stieb Dave No 147 96 0.605 51
Perry Jim No 157 106 0.597 51
Ryan Nolan HOF 156 107   0.593   49
Clemens Roger NYE 123 76 0.618 47
Torrez Mike No 142 95 0.599 47
Lolich Mickey No 176 129 0.577 47
Sutcliffe Rick No 149 103 0.591 46
Finley Chuck No 145 100 0.592 45
Viola Frank No 163 120 0.576 43
Valenzuela Fernando No 143 102 0.584 41
Tanana Frank No 146 105 0.582 41
Eckersley Dennis HOF 131 91 0.590 40
Flanagan Mike No 143 104 0.579 39
Langston Mark No 149 110 0.575 39
Niekro Joe No 152 113 0.574 39
Simmons Curt No 140 103 0.576 37
Splittorff Paul No 139 106 0.567 33
Gullickson Bill No 141 108 0.566 33
StottlemyreMel No 152 119 0.561 33
Maddux Greg NYE 155 122 0.560 33

Posted: 17 January 2008 11:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
TomH - 20 September 2007 03:32 PM

you need to find out hat the team scored on the days he was pitching, NOT their avg for the year.

On days he won they scored less then he gave up and on days he lost they scored more.

Anthony Young was 7-27 as a starter.
He gave up 4.42 runs per 9 innings with the score tied or his team behind
He gave up 5.53 runs per 9 innnings with his team ahead.

1 run lead - 6.86/9 innings
2 run lead - 5.62/ 9 innings
3 run lead - 3.90/9 innings
4 run lead - 10.56/9 innings
5+ run lead - 3.15/9 innings

As a reliever he went 20 games - total 23 2/3 inning w/o giving up a run

Average runs scored by his team in his wins 7

Onto Jose DeLeon

Posted: 08 June 2008 10:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]

First of all, 287 wins is above the standard for the Hall of Fame, which is something like 260-280. Second, the same argument can be used against Randy Johnson. Third - guess what? - Blyleven is a better pitcher than Nolan Ryan, having a better ERA+, a better dERA by .11, and more big years than him. Ryan does have more translated innings pitched, but I think all Bert’s advantages beats that difference.

However, Bly is not the best player eligible by the Hall who is not in. I agree with you on that.

Posted: 21 August 2009 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]

I think you hit the nail on the head when asking whether Blyleven was ever considered the best or one of the very best pitchers in baseball while he was playing.  He made just two All-Star teams, never won a Cy Young award, never led the league in wins, and finished first in strikeouts just once.  That said, his longevity and consistency compare favourably to several other Hall of Fame careers.  I’m not bothered either way if he gets in or not, but I wouldn’t vote for him.