Another Addition to the Bert Blyleven Series
I received an email yesterday afternoon from my colleague Patrick Sullivan. The subject read: "Paging Mr. Lederer..." The body of the email had a link to a blog entry by T.R. Sullivan, the Texas Rangers beat writer for MLB.com. (Editor's note: the Sullivans are not related.)
After wringing my hands, I wrote back to Sully and said, "I'll tackle that one tonight for tomorrow. I can give T.R. Bert Blyleven's qualifications in one sentence."
However, before I do that for the umpteenth time, I believe it would be useful to provide excerpts from T.R.'s article. He has been covering the Rangers since 1989, first as a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and for MLB.com since January 2006.
The Hall of Fame ballot is supposed to be in the mail. I haven't received it yet but should shortly. Not sure on who I will vote for but no doubt others have their opinion.
Sullivan discusses Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Andre Dawson, Jack Morris, Jim Rice, and then . . . Bert Blyleven.
Bert Blyleven - I spend more time on him each year than any other player. Far more. Far, far, far more. I still don't see it and I really agonize over this. I see one 20-win season. I see no Cy Young Awards and just two All-Star appearances. Two? I see just four seasons where he was at least five games above .500. I don't buy the "bad teams" argument. Between 1977-80, his teams averaged 90 wins a season. Over that same period, he averaged 12 wins per season. He won 12 games for the Pirates in 1979 when they won 98 and the World Series.
Well, T.R., here is what you are missing . . . And I'll follow the rule as set forth in No. 2 above. But I'll even make it simpler. Rather than using THREE sentences, I will reduce Blyleven's credentials to ONE.
That should do it, don't ya think?
Blyleven is 5th in career strikeouts. Every pitcher in the top 17 who is eligible for the Hall of Fame has already been enshrined in Cooperstown except Blyleven. The only four pitchers who have struck out more batters than Bert are Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Steve Carlton. The nine pitchers immediately behind Blyleven are Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Walter Johnson, Greg Maddux, Phil Niekro, Fergie Jenkins, Bob Gibson, and Pedro Martinez. That's keeping pretty good company, no?
Blyleven is 9th in career shutouts overall and 8th since 1900. The only pitchers with more white washes are Walter Johnson, Pete Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Eddie Plank, Warren Spahn, Nolan Ryan, and Tom Seaver. Hall of Famers all. In fact, one could make the case that these eight pitchers are inner circle Hall of Famers. The 13 pitchers immediately behind Blyleven are Don Sutton, Pud Galvin, Ed Walsh, Bob Gibson, Mordecai Brown, Steve Carlton, Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Rube Waddell, Vic Willis, Don Drysdale, and Fergie Jenkins. Once again, each and every one of these pitchers is a member of the Hall of Fame. In fact, every pitcher who has 50 or more shutouts is in the HOF except Blyleven. And he has SIXTY!
Blyleven is 27th in career wins and 19th since 1900. Every pitcher above Blyleven who is eligible for the Hall of Fame has been inducted into Cooperstown except Bobby Mathews, a 19th-century hurler with 297 wins, and Tommy John, who accumulated one more victory than Bert. Immediately behind Blyleven are Hall of Famers such as Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Red Ruffing, Burleigh Grimes, Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, and Eppa Rixey. There are dozens of others behind this group who are also in the HOF, including such notables as Carl Hubbell, Bob Gibson, and Sandy Koufax, as well as Catfish Hunter, a Blyleven contemporary who won 63 fewer games and trailed in shutouts by 18 and strikeouts by 1,689. Blyleven didn't just trounce Hunter in counting stats but he also trumped him in arguably the most important rate stat for pitchers. Hunter's adjusted ERA (ERA+) was 104 (or 4% better than the league average). By comparison, Blyleven's ERA+ was 118 (or 18% better than the league average).
Sullivan adds a final word . . .
My ballot is subject to change every year. I go over every player on the ballot and examine his record on www.baseball-reference.com every year. Blyleven especially. There may be a year when I vote for a player and then not vote for him the next year. There are a number of players who I go back and forth on. That's just the way it is.
You gotta give T.R. credit. He wants to be objective. I mean, if "www.baseball-reference.com is the final word," then Sullivan is a numbers guy. I like that. At least we can argue about facts rather than opinions.
I couldn't be more confident that the following screen shots taken directly from Sullivan's "final word" will do the trick when it comes to convincing him (and, hopefully, other voters) that Blyleven deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
+ Indicates Hall of Famer. Bold indicates active player. * Throws left-handed.
As shown, Blyleven ranks 5th in career strikeouts. Check out the pitchers directly above and below him.
As detailed, Blyleven is 9th in career shutouts overall and 8th since 1900. Once again, check out the pitchers ranked immediately above or below him. Not too shabby, huh?
If not for 19th-century pitchers Cy Young, Pud Galvin, Kid Nichols, Tim Keefe, John Clarkson, Charley Radbourn, Mickey Welch, and Bobby Mathews, Blyleven would rank 19th in career wins (rather than 27th).
Let me close by repeating the simple and straightforward case as to why Blyleven belongs in the Hall of Fame: