Baseball BeatDecember 31, 2007
Let's Get Smart About the Hall of Fame Voting Process
By Rich Lederer

"Missed it by THAT much" was made famous by Don Adams in his role as the clueless secret agent Maxwell Smart in the 1960s comedy series "Get Smart." Smart, also known as Agent 86, would utter his catch phrase while holding up his thumb and forefinger to demonstrate how close he was to pulling off a heroic super spy move.

Well, there have been numerous baseball players whose careers "missed it by that much" when it came time to vote for their worthiness as Hall of Famers. Gil Hodges, the only player to earn 50% or more of the vote and never get elected, is the poster boy for this dubious distinction.

I've always found it interesting how some candidates for the Hall of Fame get dismissed summarily while others get a second look (or more). Will Clark, Darrell Evans, Bobby Grich, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker, Dan Quisenberry, Bret Saberhagen, and Dave Stieb were all "one and done" guys. All eight of these players were as good or better than one or more Hall of Famers at their positions, yet not a single one received as much as 5% of the vote in their lone shot at baseball immortality. Smart would have simply said, "Sorry about that."

Granted, the Hall of Fame vote is a binary choice: it's either a "yes" or a "no." There's no place on the ballot for "maybe" or "gosh, he was awfully good...shouldn't we honor him in some other way?"

That said, in practice, many writers will not vote for a player in his first year of eligibility because they do not believe he is worthy of being a "first-ballot Hall of Famer." It's not only a silly distinction – either you're good enough in year one or you're not – but this type of thinking runs the risk that a fully qualified candidate could get booted if enough voters acted in this manner. It's unlikely, but it's certainly possible.

"Now Listen Carefully"

One way around this dilemma would be to add a category, as has been proposed by Tom Tango, that would enable writers to check the following box: "I need more time to think about this candidate." To be honest, I've never been too fond of this idea because a voter shouldn't need more than five years to think about a player's Hall of Fame worthiness. However, the time may have come to adopt something like this, especially in view of the fact that many star players from the so-called "steroid era" have now retired or will be calling it quits in the not too distant future.

Now, one can argue "for" or "against" players from this era all you want. But the whole issue might be a bit more complicated than just saying so and so cheated or that it doesn't matter. As for me, I would hope writers would either vote "yes" or "no" based on the player's merits or admit they need more time to sort this matter out.

* * * * *

The Hall of the Very Good has made its way into the baseball lexicon in recent years. I think most of us would agree that players like Norm Cash, Orel Hershiser, Fred Lynn, Rick Reuschel, Reggie Smith, and Jimmy Wynn all came up a little short in meeting the standards for the Hall of Fame. (Notice that I didn't mention Ron Santo as I'm still holding out hope for him.)

With respect to the Hall of the Very Good, I would like to submit a first-year eligible pitcher from this year's ballot for inclusion. He won't come close to sniffing the required 5% in order to keep his name on next year's ballot. His name? Chuck Finley.

Let me be perfectly clear here. I do not believe Chuck Finley is a Hall of Famer. However, I believe he was a better pitcher than generally recognized.

There are dozens of players who are deserving of the mythical HOTVG, yet are rarely even thought of in those terms. I would submit that Finley is one of those players. How many baseball fans realize that the tall lefthander from Monroe, Louisiana won 200 games during his career? Or that he had seven seasons in which he won 15 or more contests? Or that Chuck ranks 22nd in career strikeouts among all pitchers since 1900? Or that he had back-to-back years with ERAs under 2.60?

How many sabermetricians realize that Finley is tied for 62nd in Runs Saved Against Average in the modern era? Or that his ERA+ is 115? He's eighth in ERA+ among pitchers eligible for the HOF with 3,000 or more innings.

The bottom line is that Finley pitched at a high level for a long time. In fact, higher and longer than most fans realize.

Hold on, while I answer my shoe phone . . . I think it's Billy Pierce on the other end.

* * * * *

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN wrote an article a few days ago on (Chuck) Tanner backing Gossage, Blyleven. Crasnick, whose "License To Deal" is one of the best books on the world of agents, called me last Wednesday and we spoke for about 20 minutes.

But Blyleven's supporters swear by his Hall-worthiness. Rich Lederer, a baseball analyst and historian, studied Blyleven's career and estimates that if he had received even league-average run support, his record would be closer to 313-224 than his 287-250.

"I don't think people have taken the time to look at the statistics closely enough to appreciate how dominant he was," Lederer said. "If he had won 13 more games, I don't think we'd even be having this discussion right now."

I should point out that the win-loss records with "league-average run support" are courtesy of Lee Sinins and his Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.

The Hall of Fame ballots must be postmarked no later than today. The results of the voting will be announced on Tuesday, January 8.

* * * * *

Update (01/01/08): According to Keith Law, Blyleven has been named on 68% (58 of 85) of the ballots he has seen. Polling at 89%, Gossage appears to be a lock this year. If Blyleven can finish with the most votes among those who do not get elected, he will be like the Goose this year and become the favorite to get the additional support next time around.

[Additional reader comments and retorts at the Baseball Think Factory/Baseball Primer Newsblog with a focus on the merits of ERA+.]


Your mentioning Whitaker reminds me of how stunned I was that he was one and done.

I am not plunking for him to be enshrined. But I think it curious that Trammell remains a candidate while Lou is gone.

Perhaps I am missing something about Trammell. It seems to me he was an excellent shortstop but not extraordinary. And comparing his career to Whitaker's, it appears to me that Lou was the superior player. I am not including defensive value, but was Trammell so much superior to Whitaker as a defender to compensate for the apparent offensive gap?

In fact, comparing him to Whitaker, it seems to me Lou was far more consistently excellent. After his first year, Whitaker had one bad year with an OPS+ under 100. Trammell had 10 such years. While Whitaker never had a year to compare to Trammell's 1987 (155 OPS+), he was consistently better in that regard, reaching a high of 141. Overall, his OPS+ is 116 to Trammell's 110. That difference is due to both a higher OBP and slugging %, and he also had more home runs and doubles. The only stat I see that favors Trammell is BA, and that is due to more high average years, not consistently better BAs.

I may indeed be overlooking some factors, but on first look it seems that Whitaker's candidacy is stronger than Trammell's. Yet Lou is no longer on the ballot and Alan is among the more popular choices for enshrinement.

Aside from the true Inner Circle HOF'ers, how the electorate determines the lower tiers strikes me as little more than random.

Although I would vote for Trammell, I'm not overly passionate about his candidacy. I believe Whitaker was as valuable as Trammell during their playing days and every bit as worthy in terms of the Hall of Fame. If given the choice, I would like to see both of them inducted into Cooperstown.

Here is a quick and dirty comparison of rate and counting stats:

            AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS   OPS+
Whitaker   .276  .363  .426  .789   116
Trammell   .285  .352  .415  .767   110
            AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS   
Whitaker   .276  .363  .426  .789
Pos Avg    .264  .328  .360  .688
            AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS   
Trammell   .285  .352  .415  .767
Pos Avg    .256  .311  .354  .665


             PA   TOB    TB   OUTS       
Whitaker   9967  3586  3651   6599
Trammell   9375  3252  3442   6388
             PA   TOB    TB   OUTS       
Whitaker   9967  3586  3651   6599
Pos Avg    9326  3012  2988   6599
             PA   TOB    TB   OUTS       
Trammell   9375  3252  3442   6388
Pos Avg    8816  2692  2813   6388


            RCAA    RCAP    WS
Whitaker     266    369    351
Trammell     161    365    318

Only Win Shares captures defensive value, and it is an imprecise measure of fielding excellence. Both were middle infielders but Trammell played the more important position of the two. Of Whitaker's 351 total Win Shares, 265 are attributed to batting and 87 to fielding (the difference is attributed to rounding). Of Trammell's 318 Win Shares, 225 were from batting and 93 from fielding.

Whitaker played more games and innings than Trammell. Whitaker's defensive WS/1000 innings works out to 4.57, while Trammell's equals 5.04.

Trammell stole more bases (236 vs. 143) and at a slightly greater rate (68% vs. 65%). Without studying their baserunning advancement, I would give Trammell a slight edge on the bases.

As a summation of the above, I would say Whitaker was slightly superior offensively, while Trammell was slightly superior defensively and on the bases. Put it altogether, and it just seems impossible to separate the two. I would call Whitaker and Trammell a push and would advocate both players for the Hall of Fame.

My problem with most HOF discussions is that they rarely begin with any sort of criteria for judging. I am not talking about hard and fast rules or statistical absolutes, but at least some general approach to the decision which can be examined and critiqued. (Not "I know a great player when I see one.) There are many kinds of criteria, from subjective (how famous was he, how spectacular, how much newspaper space was devoted to him) to numerical standards, whether traditional or progressive.

Instead, we usually get either general comments unsupported by data or observation ("he was dominant", "he was inspirational", "he made other players better", "he was a winner") or too vague to be evaluated. Or we get a blizzard of facts with no discussion of what makes them impressive. ("he was 84th in OPS+", "he hit 20 home runs for 9 straight seasons.", "he won 10 gold gloves".) We need some sort of scaling to determine whether the facts tell us anything, and some sort of discussion of whether the fact itself even means anything significant.

I would love to see a discussion begin as so: "To be a HOFer, a player has to meet x, &/or, y, &/or z criteria. I will measure him against those criteria and then try to weight the various factors to arrive at a conclusion".

"Random" hardly describes how all but the elite HOFers are chosen. I divide legitimate candidates into three categories.

The upper crust: Mays, Musial, Ted Williams and the other first-ballot picks. These are the no-brainer choices.

The middle class: Guys who are solid HOFers, but not first ballot types. This is where the disagreements begin.

Rich would say that Blyleven belongs here, while others call him borderline or not a HOFer. My friend and Michigan native Teno puts Alan Trammell in the middle class, but most of the voters don't.

If the majority sees a candidate as solid or at least borderline, he'll make it. This is where all the odd factors come into play.

Did a guy spend the majority of his career with the hyper-publicized Yankees or in a media backwater? Did he have 5 or 6 big seasons or 12 more consistent ones with less of a "Wow!" factor? Big offensive numbers help, but being a repeat Gold Glover and smart, fundamentally sound player such as Trammell adds little to a candidate's HOF buzz.

Borderline cases: Players with some HOF credentials and a measure of support. Once again, perception can count as much as reality and stats.

I can't understand why Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker couldn't stay on the ballot for more than a year, as they are at least borderline and could even qualify for the middle class. Marvin Miller and Ron Santo should sue the Veteran's Committee for fraud.

The snubbing of Trammell and Whitaker is odd. Even many Detroit fans take a nonchalant attitude toward them. At the least, they could be installed together as the greatest keystone combination, a la Tinker-Evers-Chance.

Trammell rates in the upper tier of current HoF shortstops in EVERY key stat, average, power, speed, defense. Either he should get in, or HALF of the currently enshrined shortstops should be thrown out.

Sweet Lou is more borderline. Tramm outhit him by almost ten points, stole more bases, was a bit better defensively, had more MVP/post season honors, and the stats Lou led in were largely because he played longer. Still, he is not far behind.

I've never done a comparison to see where Lou rates among current HoF 2nd sackers, he may have an even stronger case than I realize. He certainly should've gotten more serious consideration than a paltry one-time 5%.

I roll my eyes every year at some of the guys the fans put into the all star game. I would expect better from experienced baseball writers.

I think Trammell was obvious enough that he should've been a first-balloter (no reason not to elect him), although I would not classify him in the upper crust of the elite guys that Al listed above.

Bill James had Tramm as one of the top ten SS of all time. Maybe A-Rod and Jeter will bump him to 12th, but that's still ROCK SOLID HoF status. Now that he's working for the Bosox, James has gotten silent on Tramm. I wonder if he has been shilling for Rice?

Extending Al's comments, I believe most of us think of Hall of Famers in three camps: yes, maybe, no. I know that is simplistic, but I think it goes a long ways toward understanding the vast majority of the disagreements.

We also generally agree on which players deserve to be in each of those groupings. As such, almost all of the arguments involve those in the middle third. I might put certain players in the "yes" side of the middle and certain players in the "no" side. Others might see things differently, putting some of my "yes" candidates in the "no" and some of my "no" candidates in the "yes."

As long as there is opinion involved, we will never agree on everybody. We can only hope that voters will pay more attention to the stats that do a better job in evaluating performance. But I'm sure we would never even agree to which measures are the best. So round and round we go, although I think the discussion has gradually improved over time.

"Sweet Lou is more borderline. Tramm outhit him by almost ten points, stole more bases, was a bit better defensively, had more MVP/post season honors, and the stats Lou led in were largely because he played longer. Still, he is not far behind."
I do not agree with the thrust of this statement. True, Trammell had a better BA and stole more bases and may have been better defensively (certainly at a more key position). That is all true, although I don't think the simple BA difference is particularly meaningful and since neither was a huge base stealer I do not count that difference as crucial either. Trammell stole at a slightly better rate than Lou, but not dramatically, and neither was outstanding anyway.

The awards issue has been dealt with often enough. The same people who saw fit to eliminate Whitaker from the ballot were the ones who voted on those awards, so I take their perceptions of value as seriously flawed.

Whitaker had a higher OPS+ than Trammell, and that was due to a higher OBP and also to a higher Slugging % despite the lower BA. That stat has nothing to do with longevity and I think is more meaningful than BA or steals. He was also consistently much superior in both categories, having only one year under 100 after his first year while Trammell had 10.

As for Whitaker accumulating more home runs and doubles because he had more ABs, in reality Whitaker is credited with appearances in 19 years while Trammell has 20 years. In other words, Whitaker was more durable and should get more points for that. In his last 3 years, Whitaker appeared more often and maintained excellent numbers while Trammel's last 3 years were sub-par. In any case, Whitaker homered in a greater % of his ABs than Trammell did in his, so the total number does represent something important.

"True Trammell was better at this, better at that, was better defensively at a more key position, had an MVP-caliber season, won a WS MVP, but batting average doesn't matter ..." (Hey Magglio, Bob says you really didn't have such a good season after all).

Ah, oooooookayyyy.

I'll agree that Lou was more durable the last few seasons and that counts for something. I would think not as much as batting average though.

I am happy with the main criteria being that the player is one of the 5 or 10 best not in the HOF.

As long as they elect 2 to 4 players a year, then we're doing fine.

RE: Whitaker vs. Trammell. Somehow, you can make similar arguments for other players. The first couple that comes to mind is Evans vs. Rice. It's something that happens and I truly wonder why.

More Hall of the Very Good members: Mickey Lolich, Jose Cruz, Del Pratt, Eddie Yost, Milt Pappas.

Good piece, Rich. I sure hope the Veteran's Committee is overcome with a sudden bout of common sense and adds Ron Santo before all his limbs fall off. And of course, like you, I'm hoping for good things for Blyleven this year.

Tenno, I did not say BA did not matter. Misquoting like that is really not right. As a matter of fact, I do consider it an overrated stat in some quarters, but that is not the point of what I said. I simply think that Whitaker's advantages in both OBP and Slugging % are more significant markers than the 9 point difference in BA.

As for Ordonez, that is an entirely irrelevant issue and again misrepresents my point. However, as a matter of fact, while I am impressed by his BA this year, I think that is only a small part of what made his year outstanding.

I don't put a lot of stock in awards and honors when it comes time to evaluate a player's career or their Hall of Fame worthiness (for reasons that I have written about many times) but, to be fair, Whitaker stacks up fairly well with Trammell in this area.

                    Trammell    Whitaker
Gold Gloves            4           3
Silver Sluggers        3           4
All-Star Games         6           5
Top 10 MVP             3           1

Trammell (.333/.404/.588) hit better in the postseason than Whitaker (.204/.350/.306) and was named the MVP of the 1984 World Series. Whitaker was the Rookie of the Year in 1978.

Not only were Trammell and Whitaker on the same team, but they were teammates from 1977-1995, encompassing Sweet Lou's entire career and all but one year for Trammell (who hung on for one more season).

After watching their careers unfold and analyzing their stats every which way, I just don't see how anybody can distinguish one from the other with any authority.

I agree. I have not been arguing that Whitaker is more deserving than Trammell, just that the large discrepancy in the voting for them is unreasonable given their careers.

Bob, I wasn't misquoting you (your exact quote was already there for all to see), I was facetiously showing how you showed a bias against any category Trammell led Whitaker in. Earlier you omitted defensive ability as irrelevant, then you omitted batting average as irrelevant. And you DID contend that Lou was more deserving than Trammell in your first post.

How many 2nd basemen in history have better power numbers than Lou? I'd guess more than the 3 shortstops who have better power stats than Trammell. And the power stats are mostly what you are using to show Lou's case.

But I don't disagree at all that Lou deserves a much closer look than he's gotten. One and done is an insult.

As for the awards, Trammell had to compete for his silver sluggers, gold gloves, and all-star games against Ripken, Yount, and Fernandez, or he'd have had even more of each.

Here is what I said:
"True, Trammell had a better BA and stole more bases and may have been better defensively (certainly at a more key position). That is all true, although I don't think the simple BA difference is particularly meaningful and since neither was a huge base stealer I do not count that difference as crucial either. Trammell stole at a slightly better rate than Lou, but not dramatically, and neither was outstanding anyway."
Here is what you wrote, in quotation marks as if you were quoting me:
"True Trammell was better at this, better at that, was better defensively at a more key position, had an MVP-caliber season, won a WS MVP, but batting average doesn't matter ..." (Hey Magglio, Bob says you really didn't have such a good season after all)."
I did not say BA does not matter; I did say a 9 point career difference over a career is not particularly meaningful, particularly in light of the differences in OBP & Slugging %. That is quite different from saying it does not matter.

As for saying Lou was more deserving and dismissing defense, on the contrary. I simply asked the question whether the difference in defensive value compensated for what I saw as superior offensive numbers from Whitaker. ("I am not including defensive value, but was Trammell so much superior to Whitaker as a defender to compensate for the apparent offensive gap?") Of course, my own answer is no, but that is hardly "omitting it as irrelevant". It is trying to be fair-minded and noting that it is a factor to consider.

In any comparative discussion, we stress some criteria over others. That is not bias but analysis. In my view, players who have higher OBPs and Slugging % at middle infield positions deserve more credit for their offense than those whose BA is higher. Yes, in my view the factors on which you focus (awards, BA) are less significant, not insignificant or irrelevant but less significant, in evaluating the two players than others.

I did say that I thought Whitaker was a stronger candidate than Trammell but am not married to that assertion (as I also indicated there). We agree that one and done makes no sense, and I am simply using the Trammell situation to emphasize the inequity of that fact, not to dismiss Alan's case. I am not sure either is a HOFer-I lean to yes, but not confidently-but I am sure that they are close enough that the voting has made no sense.

In any case, I do consider taking points that were qualified and presented as questions and restating them as absolutes and superlatives is a form of misquoting, and certainly misrepresentation, whether done facetiously or not, and particularly when the parody is placed in quotation marks.

The real thing to do is to try and quantify Hall Worthiness in a way so that pitchers in Colorado or hitters in Houston or anybody not in New York still gets fair recognition. And I'm talking some measures that can be understood even by guys like Jon Heyman, who thinks Jack Morris was dominant and Bert Blyleven wasn't. And it has to be something that can be objectively applied to guys without the magic numbers of 300 wins or 3,000 hits. So it has to come down to the simplest stats, and something that can be done quickly at (or your favorite stat site) so the simple minds can see for themselves.

For batters, I think everyone understands OPS. Yes, it may actually reward walks (shudder) but it's still fairly simple. WHIP, on the other hand, may be too hard for some minds. So I think we need to lean on ERA for pitchers. And I'm just talking starting pitchers; relievers need their own consideration.

Since shows pitchers right next to their league average ERA, I'll say that a HOF positive season is one that is at least one half a run better than the league average ERA; that gets one point. If the season is a full run better than league average, that gets three points, because that *is* a good enough year that nobody would argue against its HOF worthiness. I won't mention that baseball-reference's League Average ERA number so conveniently placed next to the pitcher's ERA is also park adjusted if you won't ;-).

Then players can do extra stuff to possibly earn some more points in a season. Top five in the league in ERA should be a point. Top five in Cy Young should be a point. Top five in Ks should be a point. Top five in Innings. So should 20 wins. So should an All Star selection. So should winning the World Series. So should pitching a no hitter or pitching a postseason shutout (no more than one of either points per year). So a starting pitcher with an incredible year could earn as many as eleven points total in a single year. How many such years is enough of a career to deserve HOF membership? Koufax seems to have set the bar at five such years, although he wasn't really that bad before 1962. But Koufax was so good that nobody really argued against him, so his example of short plus great exceeds the total needed. So lets arbitrarily say that 35 points is enough of a career; we can tweak it later. That would be 12 seasons of having an ERA good enough to be considered a number one starting pitcher for many teams, 12 seasons of sustained excellence.

Now we can start looking at some of the candidates and see how they do. First comes Jack Morris.

He gets nine seasonal points from ERA. Five points from high Cy Young rankings. Five from All Star selections. Three from wins (okay, I'll give him four since he led the league in a strike season). Seven from innings pitched. Four from Ks. Two more for top five in ERA. And a bonus point for that one post season shutout. That's a total of 37 points for his career. So maybe the right number should be 40, not 35. But then again, Morris had a lot of solid seasons where his ERA wasn't quite good enough but still ate up valuable innings that helped his team.

Koufax gets sixteen points from ERA (almost 18, but not quite). Six from All-Star, four from Cy Young. Four no-hitters. IIRC, one memorable post season victory. Five points from top five ERA, five more from top five wins, four from innings, eight from Ks. 54 total points. If 40 is our cutoff for HOF qualification, then he makes it trivially. Oops, forgot to add in his 20 win seasons. Okay, Koufax is extremely safe on this list.

And now to the controversial candidate, Bert Blyleven. 23 seasonal ERA points, and that's dropping a season with 159.1 IP (didn't qualify). 2 All Star, 3 Cy Youngs. 7 more seasons in top 5 league ERA, 2 in Wins, 1 20 win season. Thirteen points from K's. Six from IP. Geeze, he racked up a lot of great years, didn't he. Obviously these numbers need adjusting, because Blyleven compares to Koufax over his career. But Morris doesn't. And while I think Blyleven was clearly the better pitcher, I don't think he was 50% more Hall worthy over his career than Morris. Nor do I think Blyleven should be close to Koufax. I mean, if I was drafting an all time Strat-O-Matic team with big bucks at stake, Koufax is a first rounder, and Blyleven's maybe a long reliever. The obvious tweaks come because Koufax didn't just beat his league ERA by a run five times, he beat it by a run and a half twice. And that ain't easy when the average was only 3.25 and 3.28. Maybe a season gains a point for each 1/3 of a run it beats the league average ERA. The thing is, Blyleven had *so* many solid years.

Don Sutton, another long lasted pitcher who reached the good side of 300 wins, gets 13 points from seasonal ERA, five from Cy Young, four from All Star, one post season shutout, one 20 win season, four seasons top five in wins, four top five in ERA, two in IP, three in Ks, totalling 42 points. Puts him just on the good side. But was Blyleven clearly that much better than Sutton, 300 wins aside or not? And while I'm as down on wins as meaningful as the next guy, Sutton sure got a lot of them. And it's also clear that Sutton hung up his spikes as soon as he was clearly ineffective. I mean, he was 11-11 for a team that only won 75 games his next to last season, and he already had 300 wins, so he was pitching because he earned his spot on that roster. The next year Sutton dropped in skills, and that was that. Three of Blyleven's last four years were *ERA+ of 84 or less. Sutton's worst season at the end was 86, and that was only 87 IP.

I admit, I'm no Bill James. But I'd sure like to come up with some way to convince the Heymans out there that HOF qualification is more than a career of being an inning eater for good offensive teams plus one fantastic game seven, as compared to a career of true excellence even if competing with a lousy supporting cast.

I just had a minor epiphany on reading Sully's article on "Mixed Up Sox" comparing Dwight Evans to Jim Rice and, to a lesser extent, Wade Boggs. Boggs, of course, is in the HOF, Rice gets plenty of buzz, and Evans is nowhere, even though it's hard to argue based on career numbers that Evans isn't the best of the three.

The thing is, though, that Evans was only the second best right fielder in the AL for most of his career, behind Dave Winfield. Okay, you can argue the two (I do like the bases on balls) but Winfield playing in New York really ends any reasonable perception of the two. Whereas Rice was clearly the best LF in AL while Rice was at his best, and Boggs the best 3B, and both retained that perception even when they started declining.

Similarly, Blyleven was only the second best strike out starter during his career, which ran concurrently with Nolan Ryan. Tim Raines may have been the second best lead off hitter of all time, but he was being compared to Rickey Henderson for most of his career.

What I *think* happens (my epiphany) is that during ones career, players who get thought of as the best at their position get thought of as HOF worthy. Players who have HOF worthy careers, like Raines and Blyleven (and maybe Dewey) don't get thought of as HOF worthy unless they have something spectacular to change public perceptions, like Bob Gibson's incredible season or Jack Morris's game seven. The difference there is that Gibson's career is mostly HOF worthy even though he was not as good as Koufax, and Morris's is mostly not HOF worthy. But that great moment counts for a lot.

So when we're arguing in favor of the deserving candidates who don't get traction, our rallying cry should be along the lines of "Jimmy Foxx got into the HOF even though Lou Gehrig was the better first baseman" and "Stan Musial/Ted Williams" and make people start thinking in terms of why Blyleven isn't thought of as HOF worthy and Morris might be.

Rich Lederer, a baseball analyst and historian, studied Blyleven's career and estimates that if he had received even league-average run support, his record would be closer to 313-224 than his 287-250.

And if his opponents had received "league-average run support" Blyleven's record would have been even worse. Isn't there a question whether both Blyleven and his opponents benefited from factors that resulted in that less than "league-average run support" they both got.

I think the Blyleven has a good case for being in the HOF, but the fact that the opposing teams' pitchers got above average results in the games he pitched is not a positive. Its an indication that his numbers may make him look better than he pitched.

1) Blyleven's teams collectively had a record slightly over .500

2) Blyelven's teams scored an average of 689 runs per season while the average team scored 671 runs during the same years.

So what is the evidence that Blyleven's problem is that he played on bad teams?

The comment at 11:47 a.m. shows a lack of understanding of run support.

Courtesy of Chris Jaffe's Run Support Index or Pete Palmer's SUP, Blyleven's run support was 3-4% below average over his career. Using actual game logs, Chris and Pete both measured Blyleven's actual run support (rather than looking at how many runs his team scored when all pitchers were on the mound). According to Lee Sinins, had Blyleven received league-average run support, he would have won 313 games rather than 287.

According to Lee Sinins, had Blyleven received league-average run support, he would have won 313 games rather than 287.

That is pure speculation.

rather than looking at how many runs his team scored when all pitchers were on the mound

So its not that he had bad teammates, its that those teammates scored fewer runs when he was on the mound? Paying him back for all those hotfoots perhaps?

The comment at 11:47 a.m. shows a lack of understanding of run support.

Actually it doesn't show anything of the sort. The fact is that both Blyleven and the opposing pitcher suffered from "lack of run support".

If there was a common cause for that low run support for both pitchers, such as a tight strike zone, then eliminating that cause would have meant Blyleven would have given up more runs as well.

Using actual game logs, Chris and Pete both measured Blyleven's actual run support (rather than looking at how many runs his team scored when all pitchers were on the mound).

But the comparison being made is to when "all (other) pitchers were on the mound". It would appear that, more often than not, when he was on the mound Blyleven received more run support than the opposing pitcher. The argument is that is because of Blyleven's performance. But since his own teammates also apparently performed worse than normal against opposing pitchers at the same time, isn't it more likely that there was a common factor that reduced run support for both teams?

If the "opposing pitcher suffered from lack of run support," it was because his offense was facing BERT BLYLEVEN!

One more time...Blyleven received 3-4% LOWER run support than the average pitcher over the course of his career. Had Blyleven received average run support, it follows that his record would have been better.

If you would like to explore this matter in more depth, please feel free to read a study by Bill James in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 as I'm not interested in debating it further in this thread.