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— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, January 22, 2007

Don Sutton

Eligible in 1994.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 01:03 AM | 97 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 01:07 AM (#2284052)
Does anyone remember a television special about 27 years ago where a mystery guest was supposed to demonstrate how to scuff a ball? Wasn't the guest Sutton?
   2. OCF Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:56 AM (#2284221)
RA+ Pythpat equivalent record 320-267 with a "big years" score of 21. Compare: Carlton 328-252 [54]. Niekro 334-266 [31], Ryan 326-273 [16], John 281-244 [3].
   3. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: January 22, 2007 at 02:04 PM (#2284304)
Is he Mickey Welch reincarnated 100 years later? Pedestrian ERA+ for 300 Win guy, never really dominated much, etc....
   4. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 02:13 PM (#2284311)
Is he Mickey Welch reincarnated 100 years later? Pedestrian ERA+ for 300 Win guy, never really dominated much, etc....

At least Welch may have been the best ML pitcher in 1885. Sutton can't remotely say the same thing for himself for any particular season.
   5. DavidFoss Posted: January 22, 2007 at 02:17 PM (#2284315)
His through-39 career numbers are nearly identical to Fergie Jenkins' (Park adjustments give Fergie a 7 point ERA+ lead). Sutton racked up 44 wins at ages 40 and up (era+ of 98) while fergie was done.

Early Wynn is another comp, but Sutton's peak was lower and though Sutton was healthy and consistent he doesn't get any big workhorse bonuses.

Sutton's better than Kaat, but clearly the worst of the 70s-era 300 game winners. He should see some resistance here. Comparisons to Welch, Kaat, John, etc will be important in placing him on the ballot.
   6. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 22, 2007 at 02:30 PM (#2284337)
I have never understood the folks who claim that Don Sutton doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. Because Sutton epitomizes what folks always claim to want in their ballplayers:

--he worked hard and kept himself in fantastic shape
--he was ridiculously consistent
--he showed up every day and pitched through various nagging injuries
--he beat the cr*p out of Steve Garvey

And being the "worst" 300 game winner is akin to being the "ugliest" supermodel. You have to have pretty odd standards to kick her out of bed for eating crackers............
   7. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: January 22, 2007 at 02:52 PM (#2284359)
You have to have pretty odd standards to kick her out of bed for eating crackers............

Depends on which cracker you mean. Triscuits have 122 MARC (messiness above replacement cracker), and that's off the charts thanks to the little fibers that fall out of them and turn into a veritable horsehair shirt. Saltines are bad too (52 MARC), they break into pointy little shards that'll stab you in the sides all night long. On the other hand, those solid, round oyster crackers (-15 MARC) are like little, impregnable turtles and they just won't break---the ideal solution to the munching-supermodel problem.
   8. Dag Nabbit is a cornucopia of errors Posted: January 22, 2007 at 03:00 PM (#2284364)
Random factoid:

In baseball history, there's been exactly one time two HoF starting pitchers have faced off against each other on the last day of the season with a postseason appearance hanging in the balance of their respective clubs. That game came in 1982, when Don Sutton's Brewers beat Jim Palmer's Orioles 10-2. The Brew Crew got Sutton to aid their rotation down the stretch. He pitched pretty good for them, but the team averaged over 8 runs a start in his games. Yowza!

Grandma,

It was either Sutton or John that was supposed to be the mystery scuffer. I don't know if it ever aired, though. In his autobio, Ron Luciano (who put the piece together in his ill-fated TV career) said the identity of the pitcher got leaked to the press in advance. Given what Luciano said of 1970s pitchers in his book, though, a slew of the HoM pitchers from that era could and would throw the occassional altered ball.

At least Welch may have been the best ML pitcher in 1885. Sutton can't remotely say the same thing for himself for any particular season.

Shame on Don Sutton for having his best year the same exact time Steve Carlton had the best season by any pitcher since at least Lefty Grove.

Can Mickey Welch claim to be the best pitcher in his league over a two-year period? Sutton may have been the best pitcher in the NL in 1972-3. Carlton fell apart badly in 1973 and Seaver had (for him) an off-year in 1973. Palmer was about as good in the AL as Sutton in those years going by ERA+, but adjust for defense (Brooks, Belanger, Buford and in 1973 a young Bobby Grich) and Sutton wins that.

He's better than Welch. In the 1880s you had 16 teams and 5 pitchers win 300 games with a sixth only missing because he sat out a year. Plus a seventh man ended at 297 wins. If those conditions in the 24-team 1970s you would've had 12-14 guys win 300. I'm a Welch fan, but Sutton's more impressive.

3rd all time in GS
7th all time in IP
8th all time in TBF.

Not the most glamorous of stats, but at a certain point in time you have to pay attention to them.
   9. DavidFoss Posted: January 22, 2007 at 03:00 PM (#2284365)
--he worked hard and kept himself in fantastic shape
--he was ridiculously consistent
--he showed up every day and pitched through various nagging injuries
--he beat the cr*p out of Steve Garvey


Sounds like a lot of guys in our backlog! :-)

He spent a lot of his career in pitchers parks with great offensive support. He didn't rack up a huge amount of innings per year compared to his contemporaries.

He certainly shouldn't get a "free pass". We need to do the full analysis and rank him against the other eligibles (like Welch, John, Kaat, Tiant, Redding, Walters, Grimes, Bridges) and against other hitters (Browning, Fox, Wynn, Keller, Troupe, etc).

My gut feeling is that he'll get in because his career was long and our backlog is not that strong, but his vote percentage will be fairly low compared to other recent inductees.
   10. Dag Nabbit is a cornucopia of errors Posted: January 22, 2007 at 03:02 PM (#2284367)
He spent a lot of his career in pitchers parks with great offensive support.

Purely from memory here, he had good offensive support, not great offensive support. Jim Kaat had better run support. I think Tommy John had better run support. Early Wynn had similar run support.
   11. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 03:21 PM (#2284392)
I'm a Welch fan, but Sutton's more impressive.

The problem is that conditions were extremely favorable for both pitchers in achieving 300 wins (which I personally could care less as a standard, BTW). Besides, tryimg to compare those eras is extremely difficult. But from my reading of both men and their conditions at this point, I'd take Welch. Neither pitchers are close to being no-brainers, IMO.

Shame on Don Sutton for having his best year the same exact time Steve Carlton had the best season by any pitcher since at least Lefty Grove.

Heh.

Hey, Welch's competition wasn't too shabby either. :-)
   12. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 03:25 PM (#2284398)
It was either Sutton or John that was supposed to be the mystery scuffer. I don't know if it ever aired, though. In his autobio, Ron Luciano (who put the piece together in his ill-fated TV career) said the identity of the pitcher got leaked to the press in advance. Given what Luciano said of 1970s pitchers in his book, though, a slew of the HoM pitchers from that era could and would throw the occassional altered ball.

I remember the Luciano aspect of the story now. Thanks, Chris!
   13. OCF Posted: January 22, 2007 at 03:27 PM (#2284404)
He may be the "worst" (or second-worst, possibly ahead of Ryan) of the 1970's 300-game winners, but I have him a lot closer to Niekro than he was to John or Kaat.
   14. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 03:34 PM (#2284410)
He may be the "worst" (or second-worst, possibly ahead of Ryan) of the 1970's 300-game winners, but I have him a lot closer to Niekro than he was to John or Kaat.

I don't have any of them close to Niekro. I do have Sutton over (in that order) John and Kaat, but I like Ryan better than those three.
   15. DavidFoss Posted: January 22, 2007 at 03:47 PM (#2284427)
No Don Sutton thread is complete without a mention of the ears. :-) Not following baseball until 1980 or so, I was familiar with the post-Hawaii-specail Mike Brady curly hair look that Sutton regularly sported at the time. When I started collecting baseball cards, I found some old 60s cards of Sutton with a much shorter hair style. Wow... those ears really stuck out! Yipes!

Perusing the Topps cards on ebay, it looks like he started growin his hair longer in 1972-73 and got the perm in 1976.
   16. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 04:01 PM (#2284443)
Perusing the Topps cards on ebay, it looks like he started growin his hair longer in 1972-73 and got the perm in 1976.

...and became Harpo's long, lost son. :-)

No Don Sutton thread is complete without a mention of the ears. :-)

Certainly not from me, David. Fortunately, my ears are not close to being as big as Sutton's. :-)
   17. bunyon Posted: January 22, 2007 at 04:05 PM (#2284444)
My fondest memory of Sutton's career is, in fact, Skip Carey and Pete van Wieren making fun of his hair when he joined the TBS team.

I'm with Harvey here; Sutton gets way too much criticism from the BBTF crowd.
   18. Traderdave Posted: January 22, 2007 at 04:08 PM (#2284448)
I'm not familiar w/ the Sutton/Garvey soap opear. Can anyone inform me?
   19. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 22, 2007 at 04:19 PM (#2284463)
Trader:

Garvey and Sutton got into it in the NY Mets visiting team clubhouse after Sutton said in a newspaper article that it was Reggie Smith, not Garvey, who was LA's MVP. Sutton also chimed in that Garvey was more interested in his All-American image than winning games. Garvey confronted Sutton at his locker and asked if the quotations were accurate. Sutton said they were and according to rumors took a few shots at Garvey's wife. Garvey went after him and when it was done Garvey had a black eye and Sutton a bruised cheek. It's also been said that when someone yelled "Stop the fight, they'll kill each other," another teammate shouted back, "Good."

Anyone Dodger fans with juicer tidbits or corrections?
   20. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 22, 2007 at 04:32 PM (#2284477)
As follow up, I have similar passages elsewhere online. So I can't remember if I copied someone or they copied me from here. Because I have relayed this story on BBTF multiple times.
   21. DavidFoss Posted: January 22, 2007 at 04:39 PM (#2284484)
I'm with Harvey here; Sutton gets way too much criticism from the BBTF crowd.

We're tough on everyone outside the inner-circle! :-) Re-read the old Koufax and Clemente threads.

Its not a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down here. He'll be inserted into the backlog like everyone else and we'll keep inducting three people a year. The math is in Sutton's favor here.

For some perspective, the BBWAA made Sutton wait until his fifth year of eligibility before inducting him.
   22. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 05:17 PM (#2284520)
Garvey and Sutton got into it in the NY Mets visiting team clubhouse after Sutton said in a newspaper article that it was Reggie Smith, not Garvey, who was LA's MVP. Sutton also chimed in that Garvey was more interested in his All-American image than winning games. Garvey confronted Sutton at his locker and asked if the quotations were accurate. Sutton said they were and according to rumors took a few shots at Garvey's wife. Garvey went after him and when it was done Garvey had a black eye and Sutton a bruised cheek. It's also been said that when someone yelled "Stop the fight, they'll kill each other," another teammate shouted back, "Good."

Garvey may have been an ass, but Sutton gets the demerit for clubhouse intangibles here. Sometimes it's better not to say anything.

For some perspective, the BBWAA made Sutton wait until his fifth year of eligibility before inducting him.

I bet a lot of them who finally put him on their ballots were still uneasy about it, as they would have been even more so if Kingman had made it to 500 homers.
   23. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 22, 2007 at 05:22 PM (#2284525)
John:

Sutton is no choirboy. But by all accounts he vocalized what the entire clubhouse, except Garvey of course, was thinking. Teammates were weary of Garvey's constant campaign for "Mr. Dodger" status.

Everyone was so damaged by the incident the team won the NL pennant.
   24. dan b Posted: January 22, 2007 at 05:51 PM (#2284543)
Sutton is 10th all-time on career shutouts list. In the post-deadball era, the list is:

1. Spahn 63
2. Ryan 61
2. Seaver 61
4. Blyleven 60
5. Sutton 58

Even though I prefer peak guys like Dean and Walters, I will find a place on my ballot for Sutton.
   25. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:06 PM (#2284554)
Everyone was so damaged by the incident the team won the NL pennant.

Heh. I remember. Just like the A's and Yankees of that same era, a disruptive clubhouse didn't necessarily mean that it hurt them in the W-L department. Of course, if Sutton or Garvey had been injured in the scuffle...
   26. bunyon Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:09 PM (#2284557)
I'm with Harvey here; Sutton gets way too much criticism from the BBTF crowd.

We're tough on everyone outside the inner-circle! :-) Re-read the old Koufax and Clemente threads.

Its not a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down here. He'll be inserted into the backlog like everyone else and we'll keep inducting three people a year. The math is in Sutton's favor here.

For some perspective, the BBWAA made Sutton wait until his fifth year of eligibility before inducting him.


I don't necessarily mean HOM. Sutton certainly isn't inner-circle and should get a careful evaluation. I wouldn't object if the HOM voters took a few ballots to elect him. But I've seen posters (and, no, I don't have a link) refer to him as an average pitcher who just pitched for a long time. Which is, IMHO, absurd. I can see where peak guys would push him much further down than folks like me who also like longevity, but any comparisons between Sutton and average are nuts. I've also seen reference to him "hanging around" to get 300. Of course, he then hung on for 24 more wins. It just seems to me there are a few BBTF posters who weigh "peak" so disproportionally that they are biased against guys who had very long careers even if, as in the case of Sutton, the gentle peak they had was at a very, very high level.
   27. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:13 PM (#2284560)
But I've seen posters (and, no, I don't have a link) refer to him as an average pitcher who just pitched for a long time. Which is, IMHO, absurd.

I would agree with you, bunyon. However you want to slice it, Sutton was a very good pitcher.
   28. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:15 PM (#2284562)
I've also seen reference to him "hanging around" to get 300. Of course, he then hung on for 24 more wins.

I also agree with you. He was still a decent pitcher when he won #300.
   29. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:19 PM (#2284566)
bunyon:

Yeah, that "average" stuff is just crazy. I distinctly recall seeing a 38 year old Sutton pitching 200 plus innings and marveling at how the guy just keeps competing at that age. And then he did the same thing for three years and almost a fourth (191 innings at age 42).

I doubt too many other guys can claim to finish in the top ten in the league in strikeouts at age 39. And if you find them my guess is that they are all pretty d*mn good themselves.
   30. Loren F. Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:30 PM (#2284577)
His outstanding talent, among pitchers, was his consistency and longevity -- charactersitics that he had to such an extent that they merit special consideration. It takes a lot to rack up 324 wins with just one 20-win season. Whether that makes up for his paucity of dominant seasons is a matter of opinion.
   31. DanG Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:40 PM (#2284583)
Sutton is 10th all-time on career shutouts list. In the post-deadball era, the list is:

1. Spahn 63
2. Ryan 61
2. Seaver 61
4. Blyleven 60
5. Sutton 58

Indeed, Sutton is in some high-powered company. Continuing the post-deadball leaders:

6. Bob Gibson 56
7. Steve Carlton 55
8. Jim Palmer 53
8. Gaylord Perry 53
10. Juan Marichal 52
11. Fergie Jenkins 49
11. Don Drysdale 49
11. Early Wynn 49
11. Luis Tiant 49
15. Roger Clemens 46
15. Tommy John 46
17. Phil Niekro 45
17. Robin Roberts 45
17. Whitey Ford 45
17. Red Ruffing 45
21. Bob Feller 44
   32. DavidFoss Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:48 PM (#2284589)
Sutton is 10th all-time on career shutouts list.

Paradoxically, he's also 4th on the all-time HRA list behind Roberts, Jenkins and PNiekro. Which is somewhat odd considering his parks and era.
   33. Chris Cobb Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:50 PM (#2284594)
Except for the strike year, Sutton threw over 200 innings in 21 consecutive seasons, 1966-1986. He had an above average DERA in 14 of those 21 seasons, and his DERA+ was never lower than 91. That's a huge amount of very good pitching. I have him, by the combination of durability and effectiveness, being above average in value for 16 seasons in his career. Perry, Carlton, Niekro, and Ryan all put up about 15 seasons at that level. He doesn't have the big years that they do, but when you have that many seasons above average, the big years are only icing on the cake.

And when we are talking about Sutton versus the backlog, the top returning candidates are going to be, if this election turns out as it looks like it will and the backlog keeps the same order it did in 1992, Niekro, Browning, Fox, Wynn, Keller, Trouppe, Roush, Fingers, Beckley, Redding, Jones.

Niekro is pretty obviously better than Sutton. But I can't see the sense in electing any of the backlog ahead of him.
   34. DavidFoss Posted: January 22, 2007 at 06:56 PM (#2284601)
I think what sums up Sutton's career is the incredible amount of grey ink he has. "Mr. Grey Ink" would not be a bad label. 240 points of grey ink ranks him 23rd all time! (while his 8 points of black ink slot in 281st place).

Even many of the stats he did best in were "combined stats" (he has four WHIP titles, though he only led in H/9 once and never in BB/9 and he has three K/BB titles though he never lead in either K/9 or BB/9).

Though his grey-ink totals are likely inflated by park a bit, this tells me that he was consistently one of the top ten pitchers in the league year-in and year-out.
   35. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: January 23, 2007 at 02:27 PM (#2285097)
One also must remember that the average BBTF crowd seems to be in favor or a smal hall. If you want a hall of 100-150 players, Sutton is highly unlikely to be a part of it. However, 230 is another matter.
   36. BDC Posted: January 23, 2007 at 02:33 PM (#2285102)
From this discussion, Sutton seems to me kind of the inverse of Koufax. He was obviously not the super-elite stopper of his day -- no Tom Seaver. Just as Koufax was no long-haul immortal -- no Warren Spahn. But both Koufax and Sutton seem to me comfortably well-qualified for a Hall the size of the one you guys are running here.
   37. tjm1 Posted: January 23, 2007 at 06:39 PM (#2285224)
Just a thought - and I realize this is largely out of bounds in HoM evaluations due to the rules considered:

How many of the writers who blackballed McGwire because of suspicion of steroid use voted for Sutton and Perry who were proven cheaters in the sense of doctoring the ball? Let alone the sailing through of Phil Niekro who was suspected, but never caught.

McGwire, in fact, retired before the MLB steroid policy came into play, I believe.

I'm not even saying I necessarily disagree with these writers, but it's interested how one form of cheating, which has been explicitly banned in the rules since before the Depression is considered OK if you can get away with it, and even if you get caught, you take your ejection and suspension and almost all is forgiven, while another form of cheating is completely unacceptable, even if you did it before it was against the rules (although it was still against the law).

I suspect a lot of it is related to the fact that Perry and Sutton never threatened any big records. It might be interesting if someone did approach major pitching records by throwing the spitter, but I suspect the major records are so far out of reach it just won't happen without a fundamental change in the game. Well - maybe Ryan's strikeout record could be threatend by someone who sticks around by throwing the spitter, but given that Clemens is five or six full seasons away, I doubt even that one is in reach. Saves, is vulnerable I guess, considering Hoffman didn't get his start as a closer until he was 26, but I don't know how worked up people would get about the saves record.
   38. OCF Posted: January 23, 2007 at 10:36 PM (#2285335)
Sutton is peakless? Sutton is Early Wynn? Let me take a crack at those:

In my RA+-equivalent system, it is true that Sutton never quite cracks 20 equivalent wins in a season. But he does have a 7-year stretch (1971-77) with equivalent records of 18-11, 19-11, 19-10, 16-15, 17-11, 17-13, 16-11. That adds up to 122-82 over those seven years, 17-12 per year (actually, 17.4-11.7). That may not be Koufax, but it's certainly a peak.

Now, if we go back into Wynn's record, we can find this 7-year strech (1950-56): 15-9, 19-12, 18-14, 14-14, 19-11, 16-9, 21-10. Not as stable as Sutton, but basically a match: 121-79 over the seven years. So (before we try to take any time or league differences into account), they have matching peaks.

But what did they do over the rest of their careers, outside that 7-year stretch? In the rest of his career, with those best years removed, Sutton was an equivalent 198-185, and that has quite a bit of value - somewhere around the whole careers of Claude Osteen or Hooks Dauss. In the rest of his career, Wynn was an equivalent 148-159, which isn't the same.

On a career basis, the difference between Sutton's 320-267 and Wynn's 269-238 is 51-28 (as good as three years of 17-7).

Yes, on the one hand, Sutton pitched in times that permitted the accomplishment of pitcher career goals (such as 300 wins) much more easily than did Wynn's time. On the other hand, Sutton's fully integrated leagues represented stronger competition than Wynn's 40's-50's AL.

Incidentally, while I do have Nolan Ryan cracking 20 equivalent wins in a season three times, his best 7-year stretch (1972-78, including all three of those years) only adds up to an equivalent 122-96. The same number of equivalent wins as Sutton, with 14 more losses.
   39. OCF Posted: January 23, 2007 at 10:36 PM (#2285337)
Sutton is peakless? Sutton is Early Wynn? Let me take a crack at those:

In my RA+-equivalent system, it is true that Sutton never quite cracks 20 equivalent wins in a season. But he does have a 7-year stretch (1971-77) with equivalent records of 18-11, 19-11, 19-10, 16-15, 17-11, 17-13, 16-11. That adds up to 122-82 over those seven years, 17-12 per year (actually, 17.4-11.7). That may not be Koufax, but it's certainly a peak.

Now, if we go back into Wynn's record, we can find this 7-year strech (1950-56): 15-9, 19-12, 18-14, 14-14, 19-11, 16-9, 21-10. Not as stable as Sutton, but basically a match: 121-79 over the seven years. So (before we try to take any time or league differences into account), they have matching peaks.

But what did they do over the rest of their careers, outside that 7-year stretch? In the rest of his career, with those best years removed, Sutton was an equivalent 198-185, and that has quite a bit of value - somewhere around the whole careers of Claude Osteen or Hooks Dauss. In the rest of his career, Wynn was an equivalent 148-159, which isn't the same.

On a career basis, the difference between Sutton's 320-267 and Wynn's 269-238 is 51-28 (as good as three years of 17-7).

Yes, on the one hand, Sutton pitched in times that permitted the accomplishment of pitcher career goals (such as 300 wins) much more easily than did Wynn's time. On the other hand, Sutton's fully integrated leagues represented stronger competition than Wynn's 40's-50's AL.

Incidentally, while I do have Nolan Ryan cracking 20 equivalent wins in a season three times, his best 7-year stretch (1972-78, including all three of those years) only adds up to an equivalent 122-96. The same number of equivalent wins as Sutton, with 14 more losses.
   40. Howie Menckel Posted: January 24, 2007 at 02:21 AM (#2285438)
tjm1,
There is a school of thought that says that at least it's possible to catch a scuffer - you find the nail file, vaseline, etc.
But with steroid use, you had an edge and there was no way to track it.

I'm pretty agnostic on the whole steroids thing, but it's an interesting premise even if I don't stand as one of its supporters.
   41. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: January 24, 2007 at 04:28 AM (#2285494)
But with steroid use, you had an edge and there was no way to track it.

Howie, you're a cooler head, but there's plenty of folks out there who say that you can track use by things like hitting a lot of homers, having a big head, and alopecia. I don't know whether those claims are particularly credible.
   42. OCF Posted: January 25, 2007 at 01:45 AM (#2285974)
Sorry about the double post. And that should be that 51-28 is as good at three years of about 17-9, a little better than three years of Sutton's peak.
   43. sunnyday2 Posted: January 25, 2007 at 02:52 AM (#2286010)
Didn't Early Wynn win 300 games? He only "earned" 269? That tells you someting right there. I agree that Sutton is not quite Wynn. Wynn is not in my PHoM and ranks around #60 right now. I have Sutton half way between Wynn and Niekro at #30. Still the Wynn "analogy" (not a comp but an analogy) works for me.
   44. Brent Posted: January 25, 2007 at 04:15 AM (#2286043)
Here's a comparison of Sutton and Blyleven according to the win shares statistics that Bill James claims he used for his rankings:

Player--Career WS--Top 3--Top 5--Per Season
Sutton-----318---24,22,21---99------23.30
Blyleven---339---29,23,23--114------26.36

So guess which pitcher he ranked # 31 and which is ranked # 39.
   45. Howie Menckel Posted: January 25, 2007 at 02:15 PM (#2286134)
Sutton vs sample HOM group:

SAMPLE HOM GROUP
RWaddell 179 79 65 53 26 25 23 21 07 02
Marichal 169 66 65 44 32 22 19 16 13 00
JBunning 150 49 43 42 34 32 29 14 14 04
BiPierce 201 48 41 36 33 24 15 13 08 07 07 05 04 03
Drysdale 154 49 40 29 28 22 18 17 15 13
EarlWynn 154 42 36 35 26 18 15 10 09 03
EppRixey 144 43 43 39 36 29 24 15 15 13 10 09 09 06
DoSutton 161 59 42 27 26 21 19 12 11 10 10 07 06 02 01

RWaddell top 10 in IP: 3 4 4 10
Marichal top 10 in IP: 1 1 3 5 5 6 8 8
JBunning top 10 in IP: 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 5 6 8
BiPierce top 10 in IP: 3 3 3 5 5 7
Drysdale top 10 in IP: 1 1 2 2 4 5 5 5 9 9 10
EarlWynn top 10 in IP: 1 1 1 2 2 3 3 6 6 6 6 7
EppRixey top 10 in IP: 1 3 3 3 4 7 8 8 9 9
DoSutton top 10 in IP: 5 5 5 7 8 9 9 9 10

Not exactly like anybody - some in-season durability issues, high 1-2 punch. A peakier Rixey, I suppose.

Most of these types come down to "does it mean much to give a 110-120 ERA+ with good innings?" I think it does, so these guys all make my ballot.

Throwing in a couple of contenders
BWalters 168 52 46 40 27 23 07
LuiTiant 184 69 32 28 25 20 19 05 02 02 00
BuGrimes 153 44 38 36 31 23 08 08 08 03
DoSutton 161 59 42 27 26 21 19 12 11 10 10 07 06 02 01

BWalters top 10 in IP: 1 1 1 4 6 6 8 8
BuGrimes top 10 in IP: 1 1 1 3 3 4 7 9 9 9
LuiTiant top 10 in IP: 6 7 8
DoSutton top 10 in IP: 5 5 5 7 8 9 9 9 10
   46. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: January 25, 2007 at 03:21 PM (#2286181)
THE CASE FOR AND AGAINST DON SUTTON...

I'm really unsure about Sutton right now. My WS-based system sees him as off the ballot, a borderline-just-out guy. It doesn't like him because he was never the best pitcher in his league, because he didn't have a peak that differentiated him from lower tier hurlers, and because that peak is lower than election standard.

What it likes about him is that his career total WS are well within the HOM range, a decent number of A-S years, a couple WS CYA finalist (as in top X finishes), that he was effective decently long after his prime ended.

In terms of somewhat similar pitchers, my system ranks Sutton below Ted Lyons, Early Wynn, Red Ruffing, Nolan Ryan, Red Faber, Burleigh Grimes, and Eppa Rixey. But it slots him ahead of Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Jack Morris, Herb Pennock, BoBo Nesome, Rick Reuschel, and, yes, Mickey Welch. I mean there's no two ways about it, he's really borderline in my system. Others will vary, of course.

Outside my system, a 108 ERA+ isn't snazzy. But his peak ERA+s of 161, 159, 142 aren't bad. But then it drops off to 127, 126, 121, then the teens. Which isn't awful I might add, just not dominant. Never led the league but finished second twice. But he threw 5282 IP. He has a ton (240) of gray ink, but he's got almost no black ink (8). But he threw in an era where a lot of pitchers threw a lot of innings. And his average park factor (weighted by IP) was 94.8, and he never once threw in a hitter's park, which could have also contributed to lower stress/strain on his arm. On the other hand, he was in the tougher league.

WARP1 gives Sutton a DERA of 4.23, which would be a DERA+ of 106, I think, since DERA is on a 4.50 scale, so 4.50/4.23 * 100. Or not? Anyway, higher than BP's NRA suggesting his defenses helped him a bit more than ERA alone says; then also lower than ERA+. On the other hand, he racks up 115 WARP1s. He generally pitched for very good teams (composite .542 W%). His RSI was 103.9, not crazy high, but higher than average. He shows a WAT of about 14.7 wins (by the Deane/TB style). Not surprisingly, he never had a lot of big WAT years (no 1972 Carlton years with WATs in the teens, partly a function of the quality of his teams), he topped out around 4 WAT in his two best years, and a couple 3+ WAT years after that. He had just one year with fewer than -2 WAT, and that was 1983 in MIL, -3.05. He mostly hung around between -1 and 2ish WAT a year.

Anyway, that's all I gots. I'm feeling he'll either be off of my ballot, or he'll be on the very end of it, around 14 or 15.
   47. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: January 25, 2007 at 10:35 PM (#2286419)
I have Sutton as Eppa Rixey part Deaux. Rixey was at the bottom of my ballot whwen he was elected and made my PHOM recently. Therefore, I will have Sutton around #11 and in my PHOM.

OCF,

Your system is dependent on IP totals for the W-L record, no? If so then Wynn's nearly identical 7 year W-L record in the 50's is more impressive to me than Sutton's in the 1970's. As a peak voter, who has career pitcher sympathies, I would take Wynn over Sutton.
   48. Mike Green Posted: January 26, 2007 at 06:24 PM (#2286819)
The Sutton-John-Kaat comparison is interesting, as long-career pitchers with modest peaks of approximately the same era. I would put them in that order (due to Sutton's higher peak and longer career in terms of innings) although the margins are fairly small.
   49. KJOK Posted: January 27, 2007 at 12:29 AM (#2287015)
Sutton's looking a lot like Jack Quinn to me, and Quinn got ONE vote last election, so at this point Sutton's looking at most just off-ballot.
   50. Brent Posted: January 27, 2007 at 05:09 AM (#2287107)
Ten reasons Don Sutton won't appear on my ballot:

1. Tommy John
2. Jim Kaat
3. Jack Powell
4. Frank Tanana
5. Dennis Martinez
6. Jack Quinn
7. Sad Sam Jones
8. Jerry Koosman
9. Charlie Hough
10. Waite Hoyt

All these were pitchers with between 3750-4750 IP and ERA+ between 104-114. Like Sutton, most of them had a couple of peakish seasons, plus a lot of seasons with ERAs in the 110s and 100s. Ok, Sutton was better than any of them, mostly because he kept it up a few more seasons. But it seems to me that the logical implication of electing Sutton is that some of these guys should be waiting in the wings. I don't see it.

The HoM constitution says that goal of this project "is to identify the best players of each era and elect them to the Hall of Merit," but it leaves it up to the voters to define what they mean by "the best players." A number of voters interpret it as the player's cumulative value. The floor for measuring a player's value is his "replacement value" or "bench value" -- difficult to measure, but conceptually clear. (How much better is he than the player that could replace him?) An average player has a lot of value -- according to this criterion, Don Sutton had an extraordinarily valuable career.

However, when we talk about the "best players," for me it doesn't make sense to be counting average play. What kind of awards are given for being average? I see the floor for measuring merit as starting at about average and considering only the performance that is above average. If Sad Sam Jones had gone on to pitch ten more seasons at the same level of performance, he'd still have been just an average pitcher. Being average for a long, long time doesn't make one great.

Of course, Sutton was above average. But not that far--his career PRAA was 155, a total that is not particularly impressive. PRAA for some of the other eligible pitchers include: Willis (247), Bridges (237), Shocker (231), Tiant (225), Dean (221), Rommel (216), Trout (211), and Quinn (205). Many pitchers have career PRAA in Sutton's 140-170 range. Of course, PRAA isn't an ideal measure. For example, I prefer to zero out the negative seasons, so the pitcher's total isn't hurt by his off year's. However, that adjustment doesn't really help Sutton's case, since the adjustment tends to help other pitchers more than it helps Sutton. Similarly, accounting for pitcher batting and fielding tends to help Sutton's competitors more than Sutton.

Looking at Sutton has been useful to me, in that it has helped me identify flaws in my ranking system for pitchers; I now plan to give my system a major overhaul (but perhaps not in time for the next election). But I'm pretty confident that when the overhaul is done, Sutton will still not be one of my top ten pitchers.
   51. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: January 27, 2007 at 05:29 AM (#2287112)
Brent, looking at that list . . .

1. Tommy John - should be in, borderline, but over it in my opinion.

2. Jim Kaat - not in my top 70 pitchers. Way below Sutton and John.

3. Jack Powell - a little better than Kaat.

4. Frank Tanana - suprisingly better than I realized. Much better than Kaat. Basically = Waite Hoyt.

5. Dennis Martinez - haven't evaluated yet.

6. Jack Quinn - very underrated by this group. I'm the ONE vote mentioned above, I give him PCL credit and relief leverage credit. I have Sutton significantly ahead of him.

7. Sad Sam Jones - not bad, but the worst pitcher mentioned so far.

8. Jerry Koosman - Better than I realized, but below Hoyt.

9. Charlie Hough - not evaluated yet.

10. Waite Hoyt - underrated by this group, I've got him around Tiant, Trucks, Waddell, Griffith, Trout.

Sutton is way ahead of this group. I get his DRA+ at 109. His parks and defenses helped, but he also pitched pretty well. Forever. 21 consecutive years of 200+ innings (if you count 1981). That's a ton of value. Key to the Brewers making the WS in 1982. Big part of multiple Dodger WS teams. Helped get Astros into the playoff in 1981.

He wasn't just along for the ride - he was a major factor on these teams.

I've got him slotted nicely between Carl Hubbell, Eddie Plank and Fergie Jenkins, Early Wynn.

Granted, there isn't much of a peak - as I argued with Treder about last month, at his best he wasn't much better than Burt Hooten at his best. The difference is, he basically had Hooten's career twice, and Hooton was a much better pitcher than he's remembered as. He's at least half a HoMer, which IMO makes Sutton a rather easy HoMer.

And to reiterate, my system absolutely hates Kaat and loves Koufax as much as any career oriented system - so it doesn't just give points for hanging on. I've got a pretty high replacement level, etc..
   52. Brent Posted: January 27, 2007 at 05:42 AM (#2287116)
Joe,

I like that your system uses a high replacement value and takes account of peaks. But for me, even a high replacement value isn't the floor for measuring merit -- I don't like giving more than token credit to average or below-average performance. In my mind, the defining characteristic of a great player is a number of seasons at the "all star" level. So, that means all these guys are out (well, maybe I should take another look at Quinn).

It's funny--when Sutton was active, I never thought of him as an HoFer, or as anything more than a good, reliable pitcher. Then I read James and was convinced that Sutton really did deserve a place in Cooperstown. But as I look at his case again, I'm back to where I started -- HoVG.
   53. Howie Menckel Posted: January 27, 2007 at 06:13 AM (#2287118)
I am intrigued by the fact that as a high-consensus HOM voter, my inclination, at least at first, is to highly rate a clear borderliner like Sutton. After all, most of 'my guys' already are in.
But if you have 10-20 "must-HOMers" already, then I imagine Sutton scores pretty low.

The irony is, we may both have similar ratings - it's more "how many leftovers do we have?"
   54. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: January 27, 2007 at 10:31 AM (#2287148)
Brent - I just don't understand the whole - average has no value argument. I've heard it before, but it makes no sense to me.
   55. sunnyday2 Posted: January 27, 2007 at 01:26 PM (#2287157)
>All these were pitchers with between 3750-4750 IP and ERA+ between 104-114.

Except Sutton's not between 3750 and 4750, he's at 5282 IP.

And as for "a couple of peakish seasons:"

Sutton's best ERA+ seasons 160-59-42
John 153-38-32
Kaat 131-30-28

Sutton's not on my ballot and I agree he is in some sense in a cluster with John and Kaat, he's clearly better.
   56. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: January 27, 2007 at 02:13 PM (#2287166)
For me Sutton is no fun. Extreme career pitchers (and hitters to a lesser degree) tax the outer limits of my imagination and my system(s). Hyper-career guys also bend and twist my sense of "greatness" and "HOM-type career" in ways that feel really uncomfortable. And remember, I'm not even a true peak voter, but rather a prime voter with slight tendencies toward peak. No matter how I come down on Sutton I'll feel unsure that I've voted well, thanks to the 300-win aura and the indoctrination that we all got in how important it is. Well, I've schluffed that thinking off for Beckley, Brock, and Rice viz 3KH, so I suppose it shouldn't be a big deal for Sutton...but it does feel different; I think because I trust hitting stats more than pitching stats and can see them better for what they are.
   57. Brent Posted: January 27, 2007 at 02:24 PM (#2287171)
Joe,

If you'll re-read my post, I never argued that average has no value -- in fact, I said average has considerable value. But for me, value and "merit" (or whatever we call the factor that distinguishes great from ordinary) are not the same things. Average scientists publishing routine research has great value, but we don't give the Nobel prize to the scientist with the most articles. Giving a baseball player an award for greatness based on lots and lots of near average performance makes no sense to me.

Sunnday2,

You're right -- Sutton was better than any of them. (Actually, I already said that.)

Just as I part ways with career voters in not crediting average performance, I also part ways with peaksters in not getting too excited about 3-year peaks. What was the difference between Sutton's 160-59-42 and Kaat's 131-30-28? Because Kaat was pitching more innings, it's surprisingly small -- without adjusting for defensive support, Sutton's RAA were 33-27-33 compared to Kaat's 25-28-24; adding in defensive adjustments, Sutton's PRAA were 28-27-23 versus Kaat's 21-25-24. While I do give a boost to peak years, I can't see letting a player's rating be dominated by differences of 10 to 20 runs.

So I disagree with both the career voters and the peaksters. I guess that's why I'll never match Howie's consensus scores ;-).
   58. sunnyday2 Posted: January 27, 2007 at 03:53 PM (#2287199)
>I can't see letting a player's rating be dominated by differences of 10 to 20 runs.

In the borderline what other kinds of differences are there?
   59. Rob_Wood Posted: January 27, 2007 at 06:40 PM (#2287261)
Here are my rankings including the pitchers mentioned above.
I take a look at the standard variables in addition to strikeouts,
strikeout to walks, baserunners per inning, win pct relative to team,
shutouts, complete games, and post-season performance, all adjusted
for environment.

Phil Niekro
Don Sutton
Fergie Jenkins
...
Early Wynn
Tommy John
Jack Quinn
...
Waite Hoyt
Frank Tanana
...
Jim Kaat
Dennis Martinez
Jerry Koosman
...
Charlie Hough
Sad Sam Jones

To say that Sutton is in the family with those ranked below him is
grossly unfair. Sutton is by far the best of that bunch. He is
more like Niekro, Jenkins, and Perry than he is like the others.

I haven't crafted my prelim ballot yet, but I am leaning like this:

1. Phil Niekro
2. Jake Beckley
3. Graig Nettles
4. Don Sutton
5. Ted Simmons

No other newbies will likely make my ballot.
   60. KJOK Posted: January 27, 2007 at 07:11 PM (#2287272)
I like that your system uses a high replacement value and takes account of peaks. But for me, even a high replacement value isn't the floor for measuring merit -- I don't like giving more than token credit to average or below-average performance. In my mind, the defining characteristic of a great player is a number of seasons at the "all star" level. So, that means all these guys are out (well, maybe I should take another look at Quinn).


I feel a little less lonely now! As I've argued before, 'replacement level' is only useful for picking the 25th man on your roster, or signing a utility infielder. If you're picking "Hall of Merit" players, your baseline should be AT LEAST average play, and really should be "REPLACEMENT LEVEL FOR THE HALL OF MERIT" since that's really your in/out line.
   61. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: January 27, 2007 at 08:11 PM (#2287300)
I do somewhat agree with KJOK. My beef with his above average based system is in season durability. I belive that 162 games at an average level is actually above average production since the average regular only plays about 150 games or so. This, of course, becomes more pronounced as the performance of the two players gets better.

Still, I look mostly at value above average (adjusted for playing time) and value above a very high baseline well before I look at value given below average. The third isn't too much more than a tiebreaker. IN fact, Brent has made me think about taking another look at my pitcher rankings, which would put Vic Willis on my ballot for the first time ever at the expense of Sutton.
   62. Rob_Wood Posted: January 27, 2007 at 08:33 PM (#2287303)
Another stat that I look at is one that I developed a few years ago
called Win Values. It attempts to estimate the win-contribution of
each starting pitcher's performance in each game in his career. It
takes into account how many runs he gave up and how many runs his
team scored. A pitcher receives a lot of credit for a 1-0 win but
very little credit for a 10-9 win. Conversely, the pitcher receives
a significant amount of credit for a 1-0 loss, and a lot of negative
credit for a 10-9 loss (his team scores 9 runs and still loses!).
Loosely speaking win values combines a pitcher's ERA with his win pct.

Here are the top pitchers in career win value relative to replacement
(assumed to be a pitcher with a .425 win pct with average run support)
between 1973-2001. Seasons for pitchers whose career started before
1973 are estimated using only ERA data.

107 Roger Clemens (a)
104 Tom Seaver
95 Greg Maddux (a)
91 Gaylord Perry
90 Nolan Ryan
90 Bert Blyleven
89 Steve Carlton
88 Phil Niekro
85 Don Sutton
85 Jim Palmer
81 Tommy John
80 Fergie Jenkins
72 Randy Johnson (a)
66 Tom Glavine (a)
63 Rick Reuschel
63 Luis Tiant
61 Kevin Brown (a)
60 Dennis Martinez
59 David Cone
59 Jack Morris
58 Frank Tanana
58 Jerry Koosman
57 Chuck Finley (a)
57 Orel Hershiser
57 Bret Saberhagen
56 Jimmy Key
56 Mike Mussina (a)
55 Vida Blue
54 Dave Stieb
54 Pedro Martinez (a)
54 Bob Welch
53 Kevin Appier (a)
53 Charlie Hough
51 John Smoltz (a)
50 Dwight Gooden
50 Ron Guidry
49 Curt Schilling (a)
49 Frank Viola
45 Doyle Alexander
44 Catfish Hunter
43 David Wells (a)
43 Jerry Reuss
40 Joe Niekro
38 Dave Stewart
37 Mike Torrez

Don Sutton does better on the Win Values stat than just his ERA
would indicate. For example, he led the league in Win Values in 1976
(21-10 with a 3.06 ERA, 111 ERA+, in 267 innings). Generally speaking
Sutton did better with his run support than expected.

Bottom line: Sutton provided his teams with a great deal of value
by pitching a lot of innings at an above average quality. Comprehensive
stats such as Win Values indicate Sutton's large career value.
   63. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: January 27, 2007 at 08:47 PM (#2287309)
Of course Sutton is only 7th in his own era (what is he in total wins for his era?) and would be behind Jenkins and Palmer in any kind of peak value.

Also, how much does this adjsut for era and how much weight does actual wins have? It seems odd that Sutton would be #1 in 1976 with only a 11 ERA+. Was 276 innings that big of a deal in 1976?
   64. kwarren Posted: January 27, 2007 at 09:46 PM (#2287327)
Here are my rankings including the pitchers mentioned above.
I take a look at the standard variables in addition to strikeouts,
strikeout to walks, baserunners per inning, win pct relative to team,
shutouts, complete games, and post-season performance, all adjusted
for environment.

Phil Niekro
Don Sutton
Fergie Jenkins
...
Early Wynn
Tommy John
Jack Quinn
...
Waite Hoyt
Frank Tanana
...
Jim Kaat
Dennis Martinez
Jerry Koosman
...
Charlie Hough
Sad Sam Jones

To say that Sutton is in the family with those ranked below him is
grossly unfair. Sutton is by far the best of that bunch. He is
more like Niekro, Jenkins, and Perry than he is like the others.


I tend to agree with this conclusion. Sutton is one the Hall of Fame voters likely got right, although maybe for the wrong reasons.
   65. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 27, 2007 at 11:38 PM (#2287354)
Sutton's not on my ballot and I agree he is in some sense in a cluster with John and Kaat, he's clearly better.

I agree, Marc, but that just means he's better than someone we have ignored so far and another we most likely will ignore when he's eligible in a few years. :-)
   66. kwarren Posted: January 28, 2007 at 01:26 AM (#2287407)
Sutton's not on my ballot and I agree he is in some sense in a cluster with John and Kaat, he's clearly better.

I agree, Marc, but that just means he's better than someone we have ignored so far and another we most likely will ignore when he's eligible in a few years. :-)


Don Sutton.........8.2, 7.6, 7.3, 6.2, 6.0 (35.3).....114.1
Jim Kaat...........9.6, 9.1, 8.8, 8.6, 7.1 (43.2)......96.3
Tommy John.........8.4, 7.3, 6.9, 6.5, 6.4 (35.5).....108.7

Kaat at his peak was substantially better then Sutton or John, but the other had more long term productivity. It does appear that Sutton is clearly better than John, but it is much more trickier to determine where Kaat fits in. It depends on you want to deal the peak versus longevity trade-off
   67. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: January 28, 2007 at 02:44 AM (#2287440)
rob wood, seems like potential biases that favor sutton would be built into your system, especially playing in offense-suppressive environs where low-run games are more likely than others parks. That and his playing for lots and lots of winning teams. do you make any adjustment for that, or do you believe such adjustments aren't necessary? (I'd think they would be or every Arlington/Fenway (of the 70s)/Coors pitcher is going to fare poorly relative to the guys in dodger/a-dome/etc.
   68. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: January 28, 2007 at 10:27 AM (#2287533)
Also, how much does this adjsut for era and how much weight does actual wins have? It seems odd that Sutton would be #1 in 1976 with only a 11 ERA+. Was 276 innings that big of a deal in 1976?


Sutton only allowed 7 unearned runs, despite a defense that was nothing special (very slightly above average). ERA+ underrates him. ERA+ is not the be all end all. It's a nice eyeball stat, that's it - it doesn't hold up to serious analysis.

Sutton was 5th in the NL in IP in 1976. Seaver was the only one ahead of him that had a significantly better season.
   69. Howie Menckel Posted: January 28, 2007 at 03:15 PM (#2287570)
Joe, I'd be interested in a general (or specific) observation on what pitchers you see as somewhat overrated or underrated by ERA+ (especially if you see that low undearned run/not spectacular defense combo).
I tend to think that for many, it largely evens out over time, and that most pitchers clearly are IN or OUT as far as HOM.
But for the borderliners, it's a great thing to bring up.
   70. OCF Posted: January 28, 2007 at 04:47 PM (#2287613)
Since I've been using RA+ all along, a year with a low number of UER will show up as a good year for me. I have have Sutton's 1976 as an RA+ of 119 and an equivalent record of 17-13. It's his 6th or 7th best year, after 1972, 1973, 1980 (1980 RA+ 163), 1971, and 1975.
   71. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: January 28, 2007 at 05:11 PM (#2287634)
Even though a 119 RA+ is nice, that still seems to be low for best the best pitcher in the NL. What was Seaver RA+? How much of Rob's system is built on wins?

Joe,

I agree with you on ERA+, which is why I do't use that or OPS+ that much in my ranking of players. I just find it hard to believe that a 111 ERA+ could be adjusted so as to make a pitcher look like the best in his league. That is all that I was saying. I mean we have elected guys with career ERA+'s in the 130's, so 111 for one season seems to be nothing special.
   72. OCF Posted: January 28, 2007 at 05:34 PM (#2287652)
Seaver 1976: 136 RA+, 19-11 equivalent record. An "off" year for Seaver, sandwiched between his 22-9 equivalent 1975 and 20-9 equivalent 1977. But he was Seaver, the best of the generation.
   73. Paul Wendt Posted: January 28, 2007 at 06:08 PM (#2287674)
Since I've been using RA+ all along, a year with a low number of UER will show up as a good year for me.

Yes and thank you for that, OCF.
Is RA+ anywhere published systematically?
It should be, years ago, with so many sabermetric followers of 'R' and '+' separately.
   74. Rob_Wood Posted: January 28, 2007 at 08:14 PM (#2287731)
My win value stat was fully described in a 50+ page article posted
to this website a few years ago. In short I look at each game in
isolation (taking into account that game's run environment) and ascribe
a "win probability" to each starting pitcher's performance. I don't
look at any averages such as ERA or RA. Averages can often disguise
a lot.

Plus I don't look at wins, per se. Of course, if a pitcher gives
up few runs his team is apt to win. But I don't give any explicit
extra credit for winning the game.

In 1976 Sutton had a very low Win Values total to lead his league.
Take a look at the game logs and you'll see that Sutton "kept his
team in the game" consistently throughout the season. I am not
saying that it was a great season, I am saying that it was one of
the best of a weak bunch.
   75. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 28, 2007 at 08:52 PM (#2287743)
In 1976 Sutton had a very low Win Values total to lead his league.
Take a look at the game logs and you'll see that Sutton "kept his
team in the game" consistently throughout the season.


Is that based on an inning-by-inning account for each game, Rob? What I mean is, if a pitcher gives up 6 runs in the first inning, but stays in the game to complete a 8-6 win over his opponent, would that be considered keeping his team in the game (I hope not)?
   76. Rob_Wood Posted: January 28, 2007 at 10:36 PM (#2287759)
John, my system takes the game as a whole, not inning by inning.
In your example, the pitcher would have been credited with a
negative win values since he did worse than a typical pitcher
would have done with that run support.
   77. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 28, 2007 at 11:00 PM (#2287764)
John, my system takes the game as a whole, not inning by inning.
In your example, the pitcher would have been credited with a
negative win values since he did worse than a typical pitcher
would have done with that run support.


Okay, I follow you now, Rob. Thanks!
   78. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: January 29, 2007 at 04:39 AM (#2287932)
I realize this is probably a crude version of something else but it struck me. I've mentioned this system before. What I do is for each year, I take about the top 20 pitchers in MLB by Win Shares. Then I find out how much they are above or below whoever's in 15th place, and add 5 to that. So for 1972, Steve Carlton has 40 Win Shares. The 15th-place pitcher has 22, which is a difference of 18, and then you add 5 to that for 23. I've done every year from 1893-1992 now. Every pitcher who has been elected to the Hall of Merit has a career total of at least 62 by this method, with 2 exceptions, Wilhelm and Red Faber, who has a 49. The highest total for a non-HoM pitcher is Vic Willis with a 93.

Now let me just say that, after I did the last 20 years today, I'm not really happy with the results. The totals seem too low for this era, and I may want to make an adjustment at some point - possibly excluding relief pitchers, or increasing the +5 for each year, I'm not sure. Anyway, here are the scores for the '70s and later pitchers:

Tom Seaver 121 (8th all-time, but well behind #7)
Jim Palmer 99
Steve Carlton 96
(BTW, Early Wynn has a 93)
Roger Clemens 89 (again, through 1992)
Gaylord Perry 87
Phil Niekro 87
Ferguson Jenkins 81
Bert Blyleven 78
Dave Stieb 56
Dan Quisenberry 47 (not that this is really valid for relievers)
Luis Tiant 45
Frank Viola 45!
Catfish Hunter 44
Orel Hershiser 42
Jack Morris 42
Nolan Ryan 38
Vida Blue 38
Jim Kaat 38
Fernando Valenzuela 35
Ron Guidry 35
Bruce Sutter 35
Goose Gossage 34 (Again, relievers shouldn't use this system. Fingers got a 9)
Greg Maddux 33
Dennis Eckersley 32
Dennis Martinez 31
Don Sutton 30
Rick Reuschel 25
Tommy John 18

As I said, the scores for this era are lower than previous ones. That said, the scores for Sutton (and Ryan) are so far below what you'd expect for pitchers at their levels that I think it's a valid question as to whether they were good enough to be HoM-worthy. Sutton was only among the top 15 pitchers in baseball 5 times, Ryan 6. Is that enough to be induction-worthy? I'm not a pure peak voter, but right now I'm honestly not sure.
   79. dlf Posted: January 29, 2007 at 11:44 AM (#2288048)
I take about the top 20 pitchers in MLB by Win Shares. Then I find out how much they are above or below whoever's in 15th place, and add 5 to that.

Do I correctly understand that a pitcher who is 14th or better gets positive points, 16th through "about" 20th get negative points, and anyone outside the top "about" 20 have no points assigned? So its better to be 60th than 16th?
   80. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: January 29, 2007 at 05:05 PM (#2288215)
No, nobody gets negative points. If the 15th pitcher is at 18 Win Shares, and I included everyone down to 17 that year, the pitchers with 17 would get (17-18)+5=4 points. It's more a toy than anything else, but I brought it up because I was surprised to see Sutton that low.

One thing that I thought of later - how does Clark Griffith work as a comparable to Sutton? They both have a lot of career value, but compared to the pitchers of their time, they didn't throw a tremendous number of innings. Griffith is pretty clearly a step behind the top 3 pitchers of his era (Young, Nichols, Rusie-McGinnity), but ahead of anyone else. Sutton's behind the top 7 or 8 pitchers of his era (Seaver, Palmer, Carlton, Perry, Jenkins, Niekro, Blyleven, probably Ryan), but seemingly a step ahead of everyone else (Kaat & John, although Tiant might be an issue for some folks.) There are going to be more HoMers from the 1970s than from the 1890s, but that many? (Then again, with the 1890s being a high-offense era, you might expect a lower proportion of pitchers than ususal.)

Looking at pitchers from Griffith's era by my system:
Cy Young 264*
Kid Nichols 170*
Joe McGinnity 106
Amos Rusie 94*
Vic Willis 93
Clark Griffith 83
Ted Breitenstein 79
Pink Hawley 72

*Not including pre-1893 numbers.

Now, as it happens, Griffith has never made my PHoM, in part because of this, which puts him a lot closer to guys who were never serious candidates than to the definite HoMers. (He is at the top of my PHoM pitcher backlog.) Obviously, his career wasn't as long as Sutton's, but except for Cy Young, nobody's careers were back then. If they really are comparable, that just puts Sutton more squarely on the fence for me.
   81. Jeff M Posted: February 04, 2007 at 10:48 PM (#2291842)
I think what sums up Sutton's career is the incredible amount of grey ink he has. "Mr. Grey Ink" would not be a bad label. 240 points of grey ink ranks him 23rd all time! (while his 8 points of black ink slot in 281st place).

Though his grey-ink totals are likely inflated by park a bit, this tells me that he was consistently one of the top ten pitchers in the league year-in and year-out.


I park-adjust grey ink, using Wins (4), ERA (4), Ks (4), IPs (3), Win Pct (3), H/9 (2) and BB/9 (2). I leave Saves (3) , CG (2), G (1), Starts (1) and Shutouts (1) unadjusted. (I know some of these are not the "classic" Bill James categories, but IMO they are better representations of what I'm looking for in a HoMer).

Park adjusted grey ink for Sutton? 135. Not impressive. I was quite surprised.

I'm guessing that if you park adjust the classic Grey Ink categories, you could chop his current total in half.
   82. Howie Menckel Posted: February 05, 2007 at 05:36 AM (#2291931)
Yet another reason offered, in my mind to discount grey ink for the purposes of this project...
   83. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 05, 2007 at 01:20 PM (#2291972)
Yet another reason offered, in my mind to discount grey ink for the purposes of this project...

Certainly not without doing what Jeff has done with Sutton.
   84. bunyon Posted: February 05, 2007 at 02:15 PM (#2292002)
It's more a toy than anything else, but I brought it up because I was surprised to see Sutton that low.

You also get Greg Maddux at 33. So is he HOM?
   85. Kyle S Posted: February 05, 2007 at 02:35 PM (#2292015)
You also get Greg Maddux at 33. So is he HOM?

i think (hope?) that's through 1992, and not his full career...
   86. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 05, 2007 at 02:40 PM (#2292018)
i think (hope?) that's through 1992, and not his full career...

Correct, Kyle.
   87. bunyon Posted: February 05, 2007 at 08:53 PM (#2292353)
i think (hope?) that's through 1992, and not his full career...

Correct, Kyle.


Ah, sorry then. I thought I had been sooooo clever. :)

Of course, re-reading, it is pretty clear. So, again, sorry.
   88. TomH Posted: February 07, 2007 at 01:06 PM (#2293361)
Rob W, can you provide how much better Sutton came out in your win value system than simply by using his runs allowed?
   89. Rob_Wood Posted: February 07, 2007 at 05:55 PM (#2293540)
My win value system of evaluating starting pitchers is based upon the runs that the pitcher allows and the offensive support he received in each game in his career in order to estimate how valuable the pitcher's contribution to his team winning the game relative to a league replacement (or average) pitcher.

As Tom suggests, I can compare a pitcher's career win values to the wins above replacement (or average) based solely on the pitcher's seasonal ERA's. Generally speaking pitchers win values exceed ERA-based wins.

Here is the list of 1970s pitchers that we have been discussing, sorted by the difference in career win values and ERA-based wins above replacement:

+9.2 Don Sutton
+5.7 Phil Niekro
+5.2 Jim Palmer
+4.9 Nolan Ryan
+4.2 Ferguson Jenkins
+4.1 Luis Tiant
+3.4 Tom Seaver
+3.1 Tommy John
+0.4 Catfish Hunter
-0.1 Steve Carlton
-0.2 Bert Blyleven
-1.8 Gaylord Perry

Don Sutton heads the list with an additional 9.2 wins he contributed to his team winning over the course of his career over and above what his ERA+ would indicate. If anyone deserves a boost, it is Sutton.

As reported above in post 62, from a career value perspective (relative to replacement) Sutton does indeed appear to be a HOM'er.
   90. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 07, 2007 at 06:34 PM (#2293580)
Don Sutton heads the list with an additional 9.2 wins he contributed to his team winning over the course of his career over and above what his ERA+ would indicate. If anyone deserves a boost, it is Sutton.

Interesting stuff, Rob, With that said, couldn't this be a function of better relief behind Sutton? The other thing that I noticed is that Sutton easily had the lowest CG% of all of those pitchers on your list (except for John, who is virtually tied with him). Was he winning more games because he was more rested than the others?
   91. Rob_Wood Posted: February 07, 2007 at 09:21 PM (#2293695)
The relief pitchers backing up starting pitchers do not play a role in my system. Once a starting pitcher leaves a game, I calculate the probability of winning the game (say leading 4-2 after 7 innings). What actually happens after the starter leaves is irrelevant to my evaluation of the starting pitcher's contribution.

The whole concept of optimal rest (optimal rotation) is one that has not been fully explored. The Dodgers were leaders in introducing the five-man rotation, so Sutton did benefit from it. Of course Sutton would have undoubtedly won 20 games more than just once had he pitched in a 4-man rotation.

Sutton is definitely a tough guy to place. I'll likely have him high on my ballot.
   92. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 08, 2007 at 12:34 AM (#2293813)
The whole concept of optimal rest (optimal rotation) is one that has not been fully explored. The Dodgers were leaders in introducing the five-man rotation, so Sutton did benefit from it. Of course Sutton would have undoubtedly won 20 games more than just once had he pitched in a 4-man rotation.

But the less rest between starts may have hurt his career length, too, not to mention his rate stats.

Lots of "what ifs" in baseball.
   93. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 08, 2007 at 03:22 AM (#2293873)
Lots of "what ifs" in baseball.

Luckily, life itself isn't like that. ; )
   94. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 08, 2007 at 07:29 AM (#2293954)
For his career, Don Sutton's relievers saved him 2.9 runs above an average bullpen. He actually prevented 1.8 inherited runners above average from scoring himself, so it's nearly a wash.
   95. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: February 08, 2007 at 03:05 PM (#2294070)
Wouldn't a measure like yours that measures wins above an ERA or RA based system be like saying that PLayer A got luckier in Wins and Losses than Player B? Isn't that what Chris J's system does? My reading of the table that you posted is that it may be more helpful if it were upside down.
   96. DavidFoss Posted: February 08, 2007 at 03:34 PM (#2294092)
Wouldn't a measure like yours that measures wins above an ERA or RA based system be like saying that PLayer A got luckier in Wins and Losses than Player B? Isn't that what Chris J's system does?

That was my initial reaction, but then saw Blyleven way "up" near 0 instead of -10 or so. Blyleven in the 70s was a poster boy for underperforming ERA-based pythag and should be well below zero.

My next reaction was that he did not want this to be a measure of how well a pitcher's offense supported him. That he treated a pitcher's RA and RS as inputs and figured out how many games he "should have won" from that and then compared to his real record. Sort of a "run-support independent luck".

I'm just guessing though. Could we get some clarification?
   97. Dag Nabbit is a cornucopia of errors Posted: February 09, 2007 at 05:53 PM (#2294846)
That was my initial reaction, but then saw Blyleven way "up" near 0 instead of -10 or so. Blyleven in the 70s was a poster boy for underperforming ERA-based pythag and should be well below zero.

Yeah, that's one definite difference between his system and mine. What I find interesting is that Rob's dozen are a cumulative +38.1 wins over their careers. It could mean good pitchers really do know how to win, or that there's a limited sample size error, or that there's something in his system inflating numbers. Any are possible, but the score for Blyleven makes me wonder is its the last possibility. If so, there's still plenty of value in Rob's system because it allows us to compare these guys to each other, and Sutton comparatively comes out the best, which is worth noting.

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