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Friday, July 22, 2011

Hoffarth: Blyleven’s Hall of Fame route went from old to new school

Congrats to long time pal, Rich Lederer!...oh, and you too Blyleven.

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“You look at the new age that we are in with the Facebook and (Twitter) and the online, all that stuff is very important, because I think, as writers that do vote, that is your job to look at numbers,” Blyleven said. “And that is what I think Rich Lederer brought out. He brought my numbers out a lot more.”

Jon Weisman of the DodgerThoughts.com blog called Lederer’s achievement “the most effective grass-roots campaigns for Cooperstown ever.” Dave Studenmund, the editor of The Hardball Times, wrote it was “greatest story of Sabermetrics on the Internet.”

...“Such praise from my esteemed peers not only feels good but means I achieved what I set out to do 7 1/2 years ago, which was simply to get Bert Blyleven elected to the Hall of Fame,” said Lederer, leaving today with his wife to Cooperstown to join in Blyleven’s induction ceremony.

“I have no doubt that my dad would have enjoyed the whole experience, from reading my articles, to watching Blyleven’s vote totals increase year after year to Bert’s election and induction. I only wish Dad were here because I’m quite sure that he would have accompanied me to Cooperstown for this very special day.

“I know one thing. Bert would have received one more vote every year if my dad, who was a member of the BBWAA from 1958 to 1978, were still alive. Just as Bert will be thinking about and thanking his father, who passed away in 2004, I will be thinking about and thanking my dad, too.”

Repoz Posted: July 22, 2011 at 01:01 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, projections, sabermetrics, site news, special topics

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   1. Tommy in CT Posted: July 22, 2011 at 04:22 PM (#3883294)
Congrats to Bert. It's his weekend. In honor of Bert, here's the top 3 reasons why Bert is NOT a Hall of Famer:

1. He pitched his best for mediocre and poor teams, and saved his worst for good teams with reasonable expectations of winning titles. Bert pitched eight seasons for teams that either won 90 or more games, were serious contenders for division titles, or both. These teams won two World Series, three division titles and finished 2nd three other times. They had a cumulative .562 winning percentage. Bert made 261 starts over these eight seasons and pitched more than 1800 innings. Here's his record for these eight seasons: 100-83, .546 win percentage, 3.55 ERA.

That's 12.5 wins per season. That's a lower winning percentage than his teams'.

2. Bert's run support may have been poor, but the bigger question is why Bert did so little with the run support he received. Rich Lederer was never able to explain this. Bert's actual W-L percentage relative to his projected Pythagorean record is the worst of any starting pitcher of his era. And it'll be the worst of any HOF starting pitcher with 3000 IP with the exception of Red Ruffing.

3. He's the Rafael Palmeiro of pitchers. He played in the ideal era for the accumulation of gaudy pitching stats. His heyday was purportedly the '70s. But he's 13th in wins for the decade; yeah, wins may not be the best stat - but 13th in his prime decade? He got ONE Cy Young vote in the entire decade. Is it really possible that every single HOF voter in the entire decade was completely oblivious to Bert's greatness?

I'll throw in a bonus factor. He quit on the '80 Pirates, the year they were trying to repeat as world champs. He got pissy because he thought Chuck Tanner's tendency to pull Bert before the inevitable Blyleven el foldo in the late innings was hurting Bert's personal stats. His teammates were not pleased. The city of Pittsburgh was not pleased. Bert took a nice little vacation at the beginning of May, leaving the club for two weeks. Some teammate.
   2. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: July 22, 2011 at 04:39 PM (#3883300)
TOMMY IN CT: CIRCLE-ME-BERT OR SABER-CIRCLE-JERK, MR PRESIDENT
   3. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: July 22, 2011 at 05:00 PM (#3883309)
So Tommy, any pitchers who were contemporaries of Blyleven's that you think maybe should have made the cut ahead of him?
   4. The Piehole of David Wells Posted: July 22, 2011 at 10:31 PM (#3883518)
Tommy in CT, you're an asshole.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: July 22, 2011 at 11:16 PM (#3883537)
just for fun.

Tommy's first two points have no point, not sure what he expects. All of his points deal with won/loss record. Who the frick cares about won loss records? It's a team stat, at best a pitcher pitching a complete game figures into 20-25% of the outcome, you still have the other teams pitchers, defense and hitters, and your own defense and offense, why would anyone resort to wins loss as anything other than it's a nice piece of trivia?

3. He's the Rafael Palmeiro of pitchers. He played in the ideal era for the accumulation of gaudy pitching stats. His heyday was purportedly the '70s. But he's 13th in wins for the decade; yeah, wins may not be the best stat - but 13th in his prime decade? He got ONE Cy Young vote in the entire decade. Is it really possible that every single HOF voter in the entire decade was completely oblivious to Bert's greatness?


Outside of Jack Morris fanboy retards, nobody thinks that a "decade" distinction has any merit. In fact the silliness of ever, ever saying "most wins of the decade (or any such nonsense)" is usually enough evidence to prove that the person talking is brain dead simplistic moron.

His prime decade wasn't 1970 to 1979 or any of that crap, it was 1971-1978 and 1984-1989 with a bad 1988 in there. As to every the writers being oblivious, isn't that pretty much proven by the 1973 AL Cy Young vote? Look it up, you are seriously telling me that he didn't deserve the Cy Young that year, and even if for some reason you can find a way not to give him the Cy Young, you really think he deserved one measly vote? I mean he started 40 games, led the league in era+, second in era, 1st in shutouts.

Basically Tommy's point is always the same...He quit on his team one year, and his won loss record isn't up to the same rate as the hof. (I can't remember if Tommy is a Jack Morris retard, but it wouldn't surprise me)
   6. The Piehole of David Wells Posted: July 23, 2011 at 03:16 AM (#3883711)
As to every the writers being oblivious, isn't that pretty much proven by the 1973 AL Cy Young vote?


Not coincidentally, Gravity's Rainbow didn't win the Pulitzer Prize in 1974.

"Dear Sir:

Did I ever bother you, ever, for anything, in your life?

Yours truly,

Lt. Burt Blyleven."
   7. The Kenosha Kid Posted: July 23, 2011 at 03:19 AM (#3883715)
"Dear Mr. Blyleven:

You never did.

The Kenosha Kid"
   8. CraigK Posted: July 23, 2011 at 03:32 AM (#3883719)
I for one, can't wait to see the same horseshit "why-didn't-he-win-more-games" arguments trotted out for Felix Hernandez in twenty years.
   9. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: July 23, 2011 at 03:51 AM (#3883722)
So Tommy, any pitchers who were contemporaries of Blyleven's that you think maybe should have made the cut ahead of him?


Don't you know, with Tommy, it's Guidrys, all the way down ...
   10. Something Other Posted: July 23, 2011 at 05:47 AM (#3883750)
Congrats to Bert. It's his weekend. In honor of Bert, here's the top 3 reasons why Bert is NOT a Hall of Famer:....

C'mon, Ray. It's not funny any more.
   11. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: July 23, 2011 at 06:33 AM (#3883754)
I'm sure this feeling will pass, but right now that Kenosha Kid comment is the greatest thing ever written on the internet.
   12. Fourth True Outcome Posted: July 23, 2011 at 08:26 AM (#3883769)
I'm sure this feeling will pass, but right now that Kenosha Kid comment is the greatest thing ever written on the internet.


Seconded.
   13. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 23, 2011 at 10:20 AM (#3883774)
But what was Blyleven's W-L record in six specially-selected Septembers when his teams hadn't been mathematically eliminated by the first of the month? That's what makes or breaks a true Hall of Famer.
   14. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 23, 2011 at 10:23 AM (#3883775)
Also, kudos for the "he didn't have enough wins"/"he got pissed because Chuck Tanner was costing him wins" combo pack.
   15. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: July 23, 2011 at 02:19 PM (#3883800)
1. He pitched his best for mediocre and poor teams, and saved his worst for good teams with reasonable expectations of winning titles. Bert pitched eight seasons for teams that either won 90 or more games, were serious contenders for division titles, or both. These teams won two World Series, three division titles and finished 2nd three other times. They had a cumulative .562 winning percentage. Bert made 261 starts over these eight seasons and pitched more than 1800 innings. Here's his record for these eight seasons: 100-83, .546 win percentage, 3.55 ERA.

That's 12.5 wins per season. That's a lower winning percentage than his teams'.


How dare that 19 year old rookie, called up in mid season, win only 10 games for the 1970 Twins!
   16. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 23, 2011 at 02:40 PM (#3883808)
I for one, can't wait to see the same horseshit "why-didn't-he-win-more-games" arguments trotted out for Felix Hernandez in twenty years.

Felix will have a whole bunch of 20 win seasons once his contract is up and he signs with Boston, New York, or Philadelphia.
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 23, 2011 at 03:19 PM (#3883818)
One of these days I'd love to see the 1.16% of the writers who didn't vote for Seaver start posting on BTF, just to see if the site would implode. I can't believe that one stray contrarian gets this much reaction.
   18. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: July 23, 2011 at 04:54 PM (#3883842)
Funny thing I realized last night, when I alllllmost replied to the deeply wrongheaded post #1 above:
If you take out the best 10-year stretch of Blyleven's career, what's left is only a little less valuable than all of Ron Guidry's career.
Also, Frank Tanana had a better peak than Guidry, if "peak" means anything longer than one year.
Fun Facts!
   19. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 23, 2011 at 05:02 PM (#3883844)
Three of the five no-Seaver ballots in 1992 were protest votes over Pete Rose being removed from consideration. One of the threesome was Philadelphia Daily News writer Paul Hagen, who wrote:

Only five people didn't vote for Tom Seaver in this year's Hall of Fame balloting. I was one of them. In fact, I didn't vote for anybody. And here's why:

Tom Seaver and Rollie Fingers deserve to be inducted at Cooperstown. I'm glad they're in. I voted for Fingers last year. I would have voted for Seaver this year, and Tony Perez, too. But this is the year that Pete Rose was supposed to be on the ballot for the first time.

Rose, of course, wasn't, because baseball people were scared silly that he might get voted in even though he is currently banned from the game. So, in a heavy-handed move last year, the rules were suddenly changed to keep anybody on the permanently ineligible list from even appearing on the ballot. To me, that was a slap in the face to the Baseball Writers Association of America, which has done the voting (with distinction, in my opinion) for more than 50 years.

So, to make that point, I sent in a signed, blank ballot. So did Bob Hertzel, of The Pittsburgh Press, and free-lance writer Bob Hunter.
[NOTE: Hunter wrote "Pete Rose, Pete Rose, Pete Rose" on his otherwise blank ballot.] Forty-one other writers wrote Rose in, although write-in votes do not count. I thought about that, but that indicates the voter thinks Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. I'm not sure. Hall of Fame president Ed Stack says it's ''incongruous" to imagine a banned player being elected. He's right. It's almost as incongruous as having baseball's all-time hits leader not even on the ballot. (*)

(*One-sentence "paragraphs" have been combined to reduce annoyance.)

Two voters omitted Seaver for non-Rose reasons. Deane McGowen, who'd retired from the New York Times in 1982, said, "I just ordinarily don't vote for guys on the first year of eligibility. I know Seaver's going to get in. And he deserves it." Bud Tucker, also retired from sportswriting and in the radio business, said his non-vote was a mistake, and that he'd been recovering from heart surgery when ballots were due.
   20. Moeball Posted: July 23, 2011 at 10:46 PM (#3883960)
2. Bert's run support may have been poor, but the bigger question is why Bert did so little with the run support he received. Rich Lederer was never able to explain this. Bert's actual W-L percentage relative to his projected Pythagorean record is the worst of any starting pitcher of his era. And it'll be the worst of any HOF starting pitcher with 3000 IP with the exception of Red Ruffing.


Tommy - I can explain even if Rich didn't. One of the really misleading things can be when we look at average "run support" and then try to project what the W-L record should be. For example:

Say pitcher "Born Loser" has 5 starts with the following results:

GAME 1 - Wins 12-1
GAME 2 - Wins 9-2
GAME 3 - Loses 0-1
GAME 4 - Loses 2-3
GAME 5 - Loses 2-3

Average run support/game = 5 runs/game (25 runs in 5 games)
Average runs allowed/game = 2 runs/game (10 runs in 5 games)

Pythagoran Winning % should be 86.2%
Actual Winning % is: 40%

If you had told me he would never give up more than 3 runs/game and his offense would average 5 runs/game for him, I would guess he would win at least 4 of these 5 starts - maybe all 5. Instead, he only won 2 games out of 5.

Wow, this pitcher sure is under-performing his run support!

Or is he?

When we look at average run support we are failing to take into account that run distribution isn't necessarily equal from one start to the next. Whereas 5 runs/game looks like good run support for this pitcher, in reality he was given only 2 runs or less in 60% of his starts, a very high %.

OK, this is an extreme example, but in general, welcome to Bert Blyleven's career, particularly those early days with the Twins and Rangers.

Let's take a look at the 1973 season, the year many people think was Bert's best shot at getting the Cy Young Award. Jim Palmer won the award that season, with a sparkling 22-9 W-L record and a league-leading 2.40 ERA. Blyleven had an excellent 2.52 ERA but only a 20-17 W-L record to show for it and received only one vote for the Cy Young Award.

So clearly Palmer must have had the much better season, right? After all, his winning % is almost 200 points higher than Blyleven's. But look at this - how often did Palmer get the shaft from really poor run support, here defined as less than 3 runs/game? On the other hand, how often did Bert get stuck with the same crummy support? Here's the numbers:

Palmer's record when getting 2 runs or less of support: 1-6
Blyleven's record with the same support: 5-12

Now, Blyleven's 5-12 record with poor support isn't very inspiring at first glance. This is the sort of thing we almost expect to see - you know, he couldn't "find a way to win" the tough games like the really good pitchers can.

But 5-12 (0.294 winning %) is still a heck of a lot better than 1-6 (winning % of 0.143).

Whatever the average run support for each pitcher was is irrelevant. Blyleven had more than twice as many decisions on his W-L record impacted by poor run support as Palmer did. That's significant.

What if their situations had been reversed? What if Palmer had 17 decisions from poor run support and Blyleven only 7? With each pitcher performing exactly as they actually did in these situations:

Blyleven: 7 decisions at ~ 0.294 winning % = record of 2-5 in poor support games
Palmer: 17 decisions at ~ 0.143 winning % = record of 2-15 in poor support games

Ugh. That's ugly. 2-15? Since Palmer had 31 decisions on the season, even if he performed at his marvelous 0.875 winning % in games where he received at least 3 runs/game of support (he was actually 21-3 in those games that year) - if he only had 14 decisions at this winning % his record in those games would be about 12-2. 12-2 plus 2-15 would be an overall record of 14-17. Despite the same league-leading ERA of 2.40, a 14-17 record wouldn't have gotten Jim Palmer a single Cy Young vote.

For Blyleven, meanwhile - if he only had 7 decisions (2-5) of poor support games, that would leave 30 decisions for games where he received at least 3 runs of support. Based on his actual pitching performance under those conditions, pitching neither better nor worse, would yield a W-L record in those games of 23-7 (Bert's actual W-L record in games with at least 3 runs of support was 15-5). 2-5 plus 23-7 would be an overall record of 25-12. Which most likely would have led to some hardware being in the trophy case and we wouldn't be having this discussion now because Bert would have been elected to the HOF years ago.

Quite frankly, Jim Palmer's much better W-L record - and resulting Cy Young Award recognition - and Blyleven's lack thereof - was due solely to the frequency with which each pitcher received poor run support from their team. It had absolutely nothing to do with how each actually pitched.

The most important point about this, however, is this - nothing I've pointed out above is new information only available in the modern age of the internet and Retrosheet that allows us to look back in time with hindsight. No fancy play-by-play data was needed. It was all easily available information back in the seventies when these events were taking place. Any casual fan -certainly, any paid member of the BBWAA - had easy access to this data at the time.

It's all in the box scores.

Box scores which could have been easily found in any local newspaper or The Sporting News. But no member of the BBWAA - you know, the people who actually get paid to know more than the casual fan about baseball - did the research. Not one. For which every single member of the BBWAA at the time should be terribly ashamed because it's absolutely inexcusable.

So - "Is it really possible that every single HOF voter in the entire decade was completely oblivious to Bert's greatness?" Yes, Tommy. It's not only possible, it's exactly what really happened.

Next up: Blyleven vs. Catfish Hunter.
   21. Srul Itza Posted: July 23, 2011 at 11:10 PM (#3883968)
Of course, Blyleven had the better ERA+ that year despite playing in front of a defense with a .696 Defensive Efficiency per BB-REF, compared to Baltimore's league-leading .731. Nothing unusual of course for the Baltimore teams of that era to have outstanding fielding.
   22. The Most Interesting Man In The World Posted: July 23, 2011 at 11:58 PM (#3884005)
Maybe Tommy is just trying (unsuccessfully) to be funny?
   23. Something Other Posted: July 24, 2011 at 12:03 AM (#3884011)
Tip of the hat to Moeball. #20 is splendidly argued. I recall a writer in the 80s, think his name was Blair Schirmer, making that kind of point for pitchers generally, and of course Bill James did some pioneering work in this area, but #20 is as eloquent as I've ever seen the point made wrt Blyleven.

I look forward with sick fascination to Tommy's resurfacing and telling us why it's utterly meaningless.
   24. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: July 24, 2011 at 12:05 AM (#3884015)
Moeball, Tommy would concede your point about Bert in 1973. His retort would be it's irrelevant, as it doesn't refute his point about Bert playing well for poor teams, and poorly for good team. The 1973 twins were never in the race, so, so what?

edit: I'm not saying Tommy's point is valid, just the post # 20 does nothing to refute it. Bert was great in 1973. The Twins sucked. What's new? How about Bert in 1980 or 1988?
   25. cardsfanboy Posted: July 24, 2011 at 02:04 AM (#3884102)
My problem is that Tommy's point has no bearing on anything. Hof is pretty simple, where in the history of pitchers does Bert rank all time, and is that high enough to break through the hof standards? There are 65 pitchers in the hof (going by over 1000 ip, which accidently includes Babe Ruth) Assuming that the hof is a tad overcrowded and that there are a few mistakes in there, the question then is... Was Bert Blyleven among the top 60 pitchers of all time? Bill James had him rated at 39th, baseball-reference war has him 13th in career war. I'm pretty sure almost every system out there ranks him around 30 to 40th best pitcher of all time. It doesn't matter even if Tommy's point is 100% accurate, because you don't need to make any adjustments on the numbers he has established to see he clearly qualifies.

The whole point of Lederer's articles was just to reiterate the obvious, which is that Bert is clearly over the line. Tommy tries to confuse the issue by talking about won/loss records and trying to imply that Bert's winning percentage was his own fault, but even there, so what?

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