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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tommy John

Eligible in 1995.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 11, 2007 at 08:27 PM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 11, 2007 at 08:31 PM (#2295659)
Since you know I'm not crazy about Sutton, you can probably guess how I feel about Tommy. :-)

With that said, he was a quality player and was a hard guy to dislike personally.

trevise should be posting in about 10...9...8... :-D
   2. BDC Posted: February 12, 2007 at 01:10 AM (#2295787)
True fact: Tommy John was the Opening Day starter for both the 1966 Chicago White Sox and the 1989 New York Yankees. I think he passes that Keltner question about playing regularly past one's prime ...
   3. OCF Posted: February 12, 2007 at 03:06 AM (#2295828)
RA+ equivalent record of 281-244. Compare Sutton at 320-267 and Kaat at 262-241. My "big years score" for pitcher is simply the sum of the equivalent FWP on a season-by-season basis that they had above 15. On that, Sutton scores 21 (which is fairly low as these things go; Kaat scores 13 and John score 3 (all of it for his equivalent 19-11 in 1979.) If Sutton is peakless, what does that make John? I like Sutton, and I gave him a high vote. I see a rather large gap between Sutton and John.

What does John's defensive support look like? He's an archetype of a pitcher who depends on defensive support.
   4. DavidFoss Posted: February 12, 2007 at 03:07 AM (#2295829)
When I was a kid we used to call him "Thomas Jonathan" :-)
   5. Chris Cobb Posted: February 12, 2007 at 03:37 AM (#2295836)
What does John's defensive support look like? He's an archetype of a pitcher who depends on defensive support.

Almost exactly neutral for his career.

Based on RSI with no adjustment for fielding, I have him as 19.5 wins above average for his career. With an adjustment for fielding, I have him at 19.5 wins above average for his career. No change at all.

That'd be 282-243 by OCF's # of decisions, so our assessments of John's career are darn near identical.

WARP1 shows John's NRA (with defense included) as 4.24, his DERA (defense-neutral) as 4.25, so their defensive measures are pretty much in agreement with mine in this case.

I have John between Kaat and Sutton. He has less peak even than Kaat, but his career is significantly better. He trails Sutton on both career and peak.

Sutton I have as a solid HoMer, Kaat as slightly but clearly below the in-out line, with John as right on the borderline. I am very interested to see what more analysis turns up, as John could now end up anywhere between 10 and 25 in my rankings.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: February 12, 2007 at 03:48 AM (#2295839)
Sutton vs John 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
TommJohn 154 38 38 37 25 20 19 19 16 14 11 10 09 09 06 03 00

John's 154 comes in 1968 in 177 IP, which is quite low for that season. He has only one top-10 IP season above 120 ERA+.

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
TommJohn top 10 in IP: 2 5 8 10

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
TommJohn 154 38 38 37 25 20 19 19 16 14 11 10 09 09 06 03 00

BWalters top 10 in IP: 1 1 1 4 6 6 8 8
LuiTiant top 10 in IP: 6 7 8
BuGrimes top 10 in IP: 1 1 1 3 3 4 7 9 9 9
DoSutton top 10 in IP: 5 5 5 7 8 9 9 9 10
TommJohn top 10 in IP: 2 5 8 10

Kaat didn't even make these lists; maybe that's a good battle, but not to get onto my ballot.
You need peak and/or workhorse to get into the consideration set. This is a nice pitcher who often pitched well but not that often.
   7. Dag Nabbit is a cornucopia of errors Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:09 AM (#2295863)
Does he get any credit for putting himself through an experimental surgerial technique that now bears his name? That's one Keltner list question.

In June-July 1967, in the early phases of one of the tightest pennant races ever, Tommy John started 11 games, completing six - five for shutouts. In 71.3 IP he walked 16 and allowed 43 hits, only one of which was a homer. Meanwhile, he K'd 45. Only 11 of the 14 runs he allowed was earned, for a 1.39 ERA. Over two months. Incredibly, he only went 5-4 in those games. The Sox scored 22 runs in those 11 games; 6 in one day. (looks closer). From June 4 to July 8 he allowed 7 ER in 64 IP for a 0.98 ERA. He then lasted 0.7 IP on July 12 (only 2 runs allowed). Out there two days later he allowed 3 runs (1 earned) in 6.3 IP. He faced only two batters in his next start before leaving with what I can only assume was an injury. He didn't pitch for four weeks. When his great stretch ended on July 8, the Sox were in first by 3 games. Before coming back, they were two games out of first.

And in maybe the game's most overlooked facet in the HoM, in 9 postseason series in went 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 88.3 IP.
   8. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 12, 2007 at 11:23 AM (#2295896)
Does he get any credit for putting himself through an experimental surgerial technique that now bears his name?

Yes, Chris. I give him credit for everything he did after the surgery.

Beyond that? No. ;-)
   9. DL from MN Posted: February 12, 2007 at 02:51 PM (#2295939)
I thought it was interesting that Tommy John and Jack Quinn ended up side by side in my rankings.

I agree that postseason performance is generally overlooked here which is a shame. The problem is there is no systematic database of valuations of postseason performance to pull from. I'd hate to forget to give credit to someone. I'd love to add PRAA, FRAA and BRAA credits for everyone but I've never bothered with calculating them myself.
   10. Ardo Posted: December 06, 2012 at 05:59 AM (#4318400)
Bump for Tommy John (from the 2012 ballot discussion thread):

Badly underestimated by the electorate. Low K/9 rates, but inducing double plays is a repeatable skill and John did it as well as anybody. Above the HoM threshold for starting pitchers.

John through his age-39 season (1982): 3709 IP, 118 ERA+
Rick Reuschel, career: 3548 IP, 114 ERA+

John has better defensive support than Reuschel, and his career is centered earlier in the '70s (easier to accumulate IP). Account for those factors and the two are of equivalent merit.

Age 40 and up, John has exactly 1000 IP of 92 ERA+, which "zeros out" in terms of HoM value; it shouldn't help or hurt his case.
   11. AndrewJ Posted: December 06, 2012 at 07:53 AM (#4318413)
He pitched during seven different U.S. Presidencies. Someone in MLB doing that today would've had to start playing in 1976. :)
   12. Bleed the Freak Posted: January 17, 2015 at 09:11 AM (#4882559)
http://baseball.tomthress.com/Articles/TommyJohn.php

Link to an article penned by Kiko reiterating Ardo's point.

An overview of pitchers in general:

http://baseball.tomthress.com/ArticleLists/Pitching.php

Kiko, can you share with us some insights from your system, this shows that John is criminally underrated and should be elected well before Luis Tiant, someone who has been on the cusp of election previously.

Looks like situationally he was more effective while also excelling in post-season appearances.
   13. Bleed the Freak Posted: January 17, 2015 at 09:50 AM (#4882578)
John by other systems:
Worthy by Fangraphs, borderline or in by Joe D's P, WPA, and Chone's old WAR, a little short with baseball-reference, and well short by seamheads and baseball prospectus.
   14. Kiko Sakata Posted: January 18, 2015 at 11:07 PM (#4883692)
Kiko, can you share with us some insights from your system, this shows that John is criminally underrated and should be elected well before Luis Tiant, someone who has been on the cusp of election previously.

Looks like situationally he was more effective while also excelling in post-season appearances.


My system seems to like starting pitchers more than a lot of other systems, especially starting pitchers who are a little bit above average (my system likes pitchers who are a lot above average too, but every system likes the Roger Clemens's and Greg Maddux's of the world). I think the key is that the translation from player performance to team performance isn't exactly linear: teams that are a little bit above average everywhere will win a lot of games. I think these two articles on my site probably explain this best.

Basically, being slightly above average has a somewhat multiplicative effect on team wins, then, which is picked up in my numbers. This effect is most pronounced for starting pitchers, because they concentrate their performance more heavily within individual games.

But, that said, I'm not entirely sure how much all of that matters with respect to Tommy John. Even setting aside my numbers and my system (not that I disagree with my system or think it should be set aside, mind you), look, for example, at the 10 players most similar to Tommy John at Baseball-Reference. Eight of his 10 sims are Hall-of-Famers. Now, granted that includes Burleigh Grimes. But compare John to Early Wynn: John has more career IP (4,710 to 4,564) and a higher career ERA+ (110 to 106). It looks like y'all elected Early Wynn, but not Tommy John (although, Wynn was elected long before John was eligible, so admittedly nobody ever had to compare the two directly on the same ballot).

Or, just look at what John did from age 23-39: he pitched 3,411.1 IP, ERA+ of 119. Compare that to Jim Bunning from age 24-38 - 3,599.1 IP, ERA+ of 119. And that's excluding a handful of seasons (at both ends) where Tommy John was still a useful pitcher. For Bunning, that's excluding the first and last seasons of his career, when he put up ERA+'s under 70.

Or, since you mentioned him, Luis Tiant: 3,486.1 IP, ERA+ of 114. I don't know: to me, looking at raw numbers, I guess I don't understand why you'd prefer Tiant to John. So, I'm not sure how to explain why my system likes John better beyond wondering why other systems like Tiant better.

I will say, I was a little surprised when I first put my numbers out there how good John looked and I thought that maybe it was a DIPS thing. But John actually wasn't all that great at preventing hits on balls in play (my system does think he's among the best pitchers of the past 70 years at preventing extra-base hits) and on his BB-Ref page his ERA (3.34) doesn't out-perform his FIP (3.38) by a remarkable amount or anything. He wasn't a huge K guy, but he didn't walk people and he kept the ball in the ballpark.

Going back to my system, John does look better in context (tying his wins to team wins) (28.1 career pWins over positional average - pWOPA - and 53.3 pWins over replacement level - pWORL) than out of context (25.2 eWOPA, 50.7 eWORL), but that's a difference of about 3 wins over a 25+ year career, and even out of context, my system thinks he's an excellent pitcher and among the top 40 players in both eWOPA and eWORL among players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records.
   15. Chris Cobb Posted: January 19, 2015 at 09:27 AM (#4883784)
A couple of comments about John:

The biggest knock against him isn't his career value but his lack of peak performance and big workloads. He placed in the top 10 in his league in IP only 4 times, (2nd in 1979, 5th in 1980, 8th in 1970, and 10th in 1966) and in the top 10 in ERA+ only 6 times, only one of which overlapped with his top 10 IP finishes twice (1966--7th and 1979--3rd). For peak voters who are looking for players who were among the best at their position in a given season, John isn't going to do well.

Early Wynn thus has three big edges over John: (1) he was an in-season workhorse, which John never was, (2) he was a good hitter, which John never was (Wynn picks up 10 WAR over John with his hitting); (3) he pitched in a tougher era for pitchers than John did.

What I don't understand about John is why his BB-Ref pitching WAR doesn't match his Fangraphs pitching WAR more closely. Fangraphs shows us why his FIP-based WAR (75.2) and his RA-WAR (73.2) are very close by showing that although he gave up a lot of hits, he was good at keeping runners on base from scoring (lots of DP, low extra-base hits), so that his actual runs allowed is very close to his FIP-RA. When we flip over to BB-Ref, we find that, for his career, John's defenses were pretty close to average--they improved his RA average by .03 runs/9 IP over his career. This would suggest, to me, that his WAR in BB-Ref would be very close to his RA-WAR at Fangraphs, but it isn't: it's 11 wins lower (62.3). I don't know where that difference comes from, and it's very significant to my assessment of John. A player with basically no peak (like John), needs to have around 70 career WAR to be a serious candidate in my system. Fangraphs sees John as having that, BBRef doesn't, and I don't know the reason for the difference--it seems like it must be a difference in how they are assessing his context--where they set replacement level or how they calculate his run-environment or the quality of his opponents, or something like that. If anybody knows what's going on here, I'd love to know.


   16. DL from MN Posted: January 20, 2015 at 11:03 AM (#4884479)
Tommy John is a pure compiler case. MMP has covered his career and his best finish (and only votes) were a 17th place finish in 1979. Tiant was listed on 3 MMP ballots and was top 10 in 1974. Early Wynn has won pitching MMP awards.
   17. Ardo Posted: January 28, 2015 at 02:20 AM (#4888934)
Chris Cobb and DL are both right: Tommy John's low peak makes him a difficult case.

I looked at his BB-Ref page for top-10 seasonal Pitching WAR finishes (not that it's the perfect stat, but just as a rough-and-ready way to compare pitchers to their contemporaries), and John has a 3rd, two 6ths, and a 7th. By Hall of Merit standards, this is poor.

As a chart, starring John and several comparables:
Tommy John 3 6 6 7
Jim Kaat 3 4 5 7 8 (John has more "slightly above average" seasons than Kaat)
Luis Tiant 1 3 4 6 6 7
Don Sutton 2 3 5 9
Andy Pettite 2 4 8 (future candidate, on the bubble)

Close to John in career pitching WAR, but not comparable due to much stronger peaks:
Juan Marichal 1 2 3 3 4 6
Rick Reuschel 1 2 3 3 4 5 (more deserving than John; we did well here)

I still support John's induction, but not as fervently as I once did.

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