Baseball BeatApril 18, 2010
Breaking News: Andy Pettitte Is Better Than Bert Blyleven
By Rich Lederer

A member of the Baseball Writers Association of America who has written extensively on why he has never voted for Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame now believes Andy Pettitte is going to Cooperstown.

That's right, long-time Blyleven dissenter Jon Heyman appears to have endorsed Pettitte's candidacy for the HoF in a Twitter post over the weekend.

i think pettitte's going to cooperstown for his great 1) consistency, 2) durability, 3) octobers, 4) explanation.

Speaking of "consistency," while Heyman is entitled to his opinion on both Blyleven and Pettitte, it would be nice if he could be consistent in his evaluation of these two pitchers. You see, three months ago, Heyman wrote the following (emphasis mine):

I look at numbers, too, and while my numbers may be slightly more simplistic than WHIP, WAR or VORP, I think they tell a story of a pitcher who was extremely good, consistent and durable but not quite Cooperstown-worthy. Blyleven was dominant in a lot of at-bats (thus, the 3,701 strikeouts) and even a lot of games (60 shutouts). But he was never dominant for a decade, a half decade or even a full season.

"...extremely good, consistent and durable but not quite Cooperstown-worthy."

Heyman admits in his own words that Blyleven has two of the four things he loves about Pettitte.

OK, so we know that Blyleven has the "consistency" and "durability" down. What's missing? Ahh... "octobers" and "explanation" (whatever the heck that is).

Let's take a look at those Octobers. Blyleven pitched in an era before the Division Series so let's focus on League Championship Series and World Series. He was 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 4.50 K/BB ratio covering five different series, eight games, and 47.1 innings pitched. Pettitte is 12-6 with a 3.99 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and 2.15 K/BB ratio covering 16 different series, 26 games, and 162.1 innings. I know that WHIP thing may be a bit difficult to calculate (hits plus walks divided by innings), but it looks to me like Blyleven gets the vote for quality and Pettitte for quantity.

Alrighty, then the big difference between these two pitchers must come down to Heyman's fourth building block: explanation. Explanation? What the heck is explanation? Seriously. Jon, please explain. You can devote an entire guest column right here at Baseball Analysts to explain what "explanation" means and/or why Pettitte deserves to be enshrined and Blyleven does not. Have at it.

In the meantime, here is a quick and dirty summary of Pettitte's and Blyleven's regular season career:

               ERA+       IP
Pettitte       116       2946
Blyleven       118       4970

Blyleven edges Pettitte in ERA+ while pitching two thousand more innings! That's right, Pettitte would have to pitch about ten more years at a slightly better clip to equal Blyleven's career. Did I mention that Pettitte will be 38 years old in June?

But, hey(man), "it's called the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Numbers." Silly me, I was led to believe that great numbers led to fame but, then again, Eddie Gaedel didn't have have great numbers (although a 1.000 OBP isn't bad) but is certainly famous. Maybe Heyman can take up the "Eddie Gaedel for Hall of Fame" cause. If that's stretching things too far (or if you want to argue that Gaedel is infamous rather than famous), how about Johnny Vander Meer? Don Larsen? Roger Maris? Maury Wills? Fernando Valenzuela? Joe Carter? I'm sure there are many, many other famous players who should be considered for the Hall in Heyman's mind.

Speaking of which, did Heyman vote for Mark McGwire? I mean, he's pretty famous, no? Well, Heyman put McGwire on his "Disqualified List."

Disqualified List (own personal list*)

25. Mark McGwire. Admitted andro use made him into a home run hero before moving into pariah territory. Projected percentage: 28 percent.

That's right, McGwire is disqualified for taking steroids (and admitting to taking them) while taking steroids and admitting to such just may be Pettitte's key to Cooperstown.

Yes, consistency. Heyman's arguments aren't very consistent but, boy, they are sure durable. It must be nice.


I need further explanation, Rich.

Like Heymann, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. But geez, your "tone of voice" is so sarcastic and condescending. (Do you really think he's entitled to his opinion? Not by the way you offer your own opinion.) I'm a big advocate of using advanced statistics to attempt to compare players of different eras, but this kind of snarkiness is one of the things that turns off people to sabremetricians. I respect your opinion and logic immensely, but please, we can do without the holier-than-thou attitude.

I think "explanation" meant Pettite's explanation of his use of HGH, i.e., Pettite didn't lie about it after there was documented proof he cheated. Pettite's explanation I think is something to the effect of "I didn't mean to cheat, but was trying to get on the field to help his teammates." Therefore, Pettite is a great teammate, unlike lying scumbags like McGwire and presumably Bonds. Having not been implicated in illegal doping, Blyleven is therefore not a great teammate.

(Do you really think he's entitled to his opinion? Not by the way you offer your own opinion.)

Sure he's entitled to it. We're also entitled to mock him when his opinions are completely and ridiculously inconsistent.

And quite frankly, this kind of snark is what attracts me to this stuff. Rich isn't using particularly advanced metrics, here. You can explain ERA+ to someone without knowing how to calculate it. It's really a pretty simple measurement of effectiveness, and the numbers are pretty easy to understand. That's about as complicated as this post got. People like Heyman, who refuse to engage with those numbers, deserve all the mockery they get.

@Mike: Quoting from the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Heyman "is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." Opinions are opinions and facts are facts. And the facts clearly are on Blyleven's side. He has pitched more innings (4970 to 2946), won more games (287 to 231), struck out more batters (3701 to 2164), thrown more shutouts (60 to 4), produced a lower ERA (3.31 to 3.89), superior ERA+ (118 to 116), saved more runs vs. the league average as measured by RSAA (344 to 210), and generated a higher Wins Above Replacement (90 to 47) than Pettitte.

My comparisons are meant to mock Heyman (for his lack of consistency and objectivity), not Pettitte. Andy has been a good pitcher for a long time and might be a borderline Hall of Famer when it's all said and done. However, there is really no way to rationalize his case for inclusion *and* Blyleven's case for exclusion. In other words, if Pettitte is a Hall of Famer, then Blyleven should be a slam dunk.

I wonder if Heyman would have voter for Blyleven if he had taken steroids in 1982? The East German women's swimmers were doing them then, so it's not as if nobody knew about them yet. He may have come back from his elbow injury quicker and won 15 games instead of just two. If that was the case Rich wouldn't have a soap box to stand on. I am quite sure Heyman would criticize him not for being a great teammate, but for being a self interested jerk, only interested in getting 300 wins. Heyman's arguments are notorious for holding about as much water as a colander. How does this guy still have a job?

I think your dislike for Heyman got the better of you here.

1) he says he thinks Pettitte will make the HOF, not that he would vote for him
2) his "explanation" was in regards to how he came clean to PED use. Not sure how you missed that.

I don't agree with Heyman on his views of Blyleven but I do give him credit for explaining them and I can see his point (if not agree with it). He has also been very polite when discussing his views, something Rich needs to improve on.

Come on, Ian, can you really read that and think Heyman might not vote for him?

Anyway. Heyman's entitled to his own opinion and all that, but as one of a privileged few who get to vote for the HOF, I think he has a responsibility to make it a reasoned and well-formed one. And he repeatedly and blatantly abdicates that responsibility.


Ya except when he takes sophomoric jabs at advanced stats (if you can even call WHIP and advanced stats) and their proponents in his column/tweets. I don't remember which piece it was but around HoF voting time he made a few quips that had the same amount or more of Rich's sarcasm without half the snarky humor or actual facts (kind of important) to back them up. Heyman's a weasel.

an advanced stat*


Who needs logic, objectivity, facts and consistency when making a case? Heyman doesn't. We're talking about a Yankee here. Isn't wearing pinstripes enough for Cooperstown consideration?

Blyleven was dominant for a half decade. Go to

"We're talking about a Yankee here. Isn't wearing pinstripes enough for Cooperstown consideration?"

Speaking of "logic, objectivity and facts"... when, oh when will the imaginary "New York bias in the Hall of Fame vote" premise be allowed to pass from the scene? Go count how many New York players have been inducted into Cooperstown over the last 40 ballots.

Omitting players who passed through briefly, like Wade Boggs, Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro or Eddie Murray, here are the ten most recent New York players to get elected:

Rickey Henderson (4+ years)
Goose Gossage
Dave Winfield
Reggie Jackson
Tom Seaver
Catfish Hunter (5 years)
Duke Snider
Willie Mays
Mickey Mantle
Whitey Ford

If you don't count Henderson and Hunter as full-blooded Big Apple candidacies, that takes us back to Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella.

So what's that, one debatable HoF choice in a New York uniform (Catfish) since the Beatles were putting out new records? And 90% of Hunter's case is what he did in Oakland.

Oh, dreaded New York voting bias, when will you cease plaguing baseball fans everywhere?

Set aside the tone, which is obnoxious. I think he is right on the merits, but let's not pretend that Heyman doesn't have a reason for his opinion. By his lights, Blyleven was not so "consistant," because of won loss records.

Now, I not only know the contrary argument but mostly agree with it. But let's not forget the real reason that people dissent on Blyleven - it's all about his winning percentage, career wise and in some of his otherwise "better" seasons statistically - and maybe let's cut people a little bit of a break on the point, as the belief that pitchers should be judged in large measure on wins and losses is understandable even if mistaken.

A side point here - it is also true that, even adjusting for his level of run support (which was mediocre but not poor), Blyleven won about 15 fewer games than expected (using the pythagorean theorem). Now, I think that was likely a matter of luck, but again not something that I'm going to ridicule other people for taking into account.

It is interesting (but probably not significant) that Blyleven's "underperformance" was concentrated entirely in the early part of his career, and disproportionately in a few of his better seasons (as measured by ERA). He would have been in the HOF years ago had he managed to win the "expected" number of games(given his performance & support) in his better years early in his career (15 more wins overall plus roughly 3 more seasons of "star" level W-L performance).

Mind you, I agree it was most likely just bad luck & not a legitimate reason to exclude him. But it is an understandable, if mistaken, reason.

"he" in my second sentence of course refers to Lederer - I think he is right in his bottom line conclusions, albeit more than a little unfair to Heyman.

What if Bert would have played for the Yankees all those years? Not to mention an Astros squad that made the World Series?

The bottom line is that regardless of all the WHIP, WAR, RSAA, K's, etc that objective analysts throw in heyman's face, Heyman stubbornly clings to his longtime belief that Bert wasn't a winner. Heyman will always point to Bert's W-L%, and until it is drilled throughout the mainstream that Wins and Losses and W-L% are all 100% BS that should be compeletely ignored, he will always just be lazy and point to Bert's W-L% as "proof" that Bert was not a dominant pitcher.

Heyman is the worst kind idiotic sportswriter. He's just as bad at analyzing baseball as Joe Morgan is at analzying a baseball game. Like Morgan, he has his stubborn beliefs that he will refuse to stray from no matter what new evidence shows up to contradict his longtime beliefs. And it doesn't matter if Rich takes increasingly snarky tones with him becasue Jon Heyman is never going to change his mind about Bert. There is no reason to try to play nice with Heyman. The guy is a condescending d-bag, so I always welcome someone who is willing to rip Heyman apart in a snarky fashion. Heyman deserves it.

And even ignoring Bert, just look at the McGwire/Pettitte contradiction. McGwire is DQ'd by Heyman because he admitted to cheating. Pettitte is welcomed into the HOF by Heyman because he admitted to cheating. This makes no sense to any rational-thinking person.

Jon Heyman is a clueless moron and it a shame that people like him to get to vote on these things. He even kept Prince Fielder off his (unofficial) NL MVP ballot last year since the Brewers weren't in contention. He's the same guy that had K-Rod as the AL MVP back when he broke the Saves record. He's the same guy (and the only guy) who thinks that Brandon Lyon was a smart signing for Houston.

In other words, Jon Heyman doesn't have a clue about modern baseball analysis. When a guy publicly (and moronically) admits that addition and division are too complicated for him (WHIP) it means that he is likely too closed-minded to ever "get it". He deserves all the backlash he gets because he should know better than this, yet he doesn't even try to improve or get caught up with the times. It's a shame, really, because his voice is unfortunately one of the more accessible ones to the casual readers.

I got no further than the first sentence and said, "Hey, new Jon Heyman column!"

Of course it's him.

Not to beat up on Pettitte, but why does Heyman believe Pettitte's explanation? I suppose there is some chance that Pettitte told the truth about why he used and for how long, but "some chance" is not the same as I know he is telling the truth. If his explanation is somehow germane to his HoF candidacy, then we should have more than a slight degree of confidence that he was truthful.

Also, for the whiners upset about the tone - get a clue. This is a simple blog post not an article for the front page of a major newspaper. Blogging might not exist if we did away with sarcasm. If someone repeatedly says nonsensical stuff like Heyman then they are fair game for some mocking. If anything, Rich was too gentle considering Heyman's past comments and ridiculous inconsistency.

Bottom line, I don't think the Lederer approach (as set forth in this post; I've seen him be an effective advocate for Blyleven elsewhere) is a contructive way to educate people about Blyleven's superiorority over Pettite. Apart from efficaciousness, it is an asshole move to be THIS sarcastic and dismissive given that a belief that pitcher wins and losses ... have something to do with winning and losing ... while maybe wrong, is hardly irrational on its face.

Not to mention the fact that Lederer simply ignores the obvious underlying distinction between Pettite and Blyleven.* I mean, it's not like he doesn't have a good answer - he does - why waste everyone's time with this kind of crap that will convince NO ONE who isn't already convinced? If he feels the need to respond at all (and it is just a tweet, after all), use it as a teaching moment).

*winning % - Blyleven had 56 more wins but 115 more losses - yes, I know that means little - I don't agree it means nothing, but it means little - but on the face of it it's kind of understandable that it might make a difference to some people.

Yes a lot of people like Win% still, obviously. But there are more than enough resources available to people like Heyman to educate themselves about the fallacies of this old-timey and outdated statistic. It is his responsiblity as a sportswriter to keep up-to-date with newer ways of looking at the game. Take a guy like Verducci for example, he understands and values the importance of the newer stats but doesn't focus solely on them in his writing. Heyman is simply dismissive about the newer stats and thinks they are not even worth looking at. This is irresponsible behavior for someone in his position.

ESPN's Bill Simmons, who is about as mainstream as it gets, even recently admitted that sportswriters need to get their heads out of the sand already:

"See, I stopped writing about baseball these past two years when the sabermetrics movement became too complicated for my liking...I just hated the finality of it, the concept that numbers could trump anything I was watching with my own two eyes. If numbers always prevailed, what was the point of watching baseball or having arguments about it? I longed for the old days when you could say things like, "I hate watching J.D. Drew -- when is that contract going to end?" and there wasn't some dude lurking behind me with Drew's stellar OPS, VORP and WAR numbers saying, "Well, actually ... "

Look at that last sentence again.

Fundamentally, it's moronic. I just admitted I longed for the old days ... you know, when we were poorly educated about what we were watching. Back in the mid-'70s, when I fell in love with baseball as a kid, we judged players by five offensive stats (batting average, homers, RBIs, steals, runs) and five pitching stats (wins/losses, innings, strikeouts, ERA, saves). You could fit those 10 numbers on the back of a baseball card. Everyone was OK with it. The numbers had simplicity and elegance, mainly because we didn't know any better...Thirty-five years later, those numbers don't tell us nearly enough....Little did I know, the ball was rolling for me. I spent March reading and surfing sabermetrics...I even understand why stat junkies take it so personally whenever a mainstream guy spouts out an uninformed baseball opinion. It's too easy to be informed these days. Takes a lot less time than you might think."

It doesn't take a huge commitment to familiarize one's self with these other stats. Heyman just has to have an open mind about these things, which he seems to lack. He doesn't have to hate W-L% or think it's useless or give up on the basic stats. But he should recognize the value of the other stats like RSAA, WAR, etc so that Blyleven should be a no-brainer HOF, even taking into account the W-L%.

I agreed with Rish that Bert shoulda been in a long long time ago no matter how you chop up the stats... but...

...I also agree with LarryM on this - how is this helping Bert get elected?

Heyman won't change his vote, but there are enough voters who even though they may have a more open mind and want to vote for Bert, are probably sick to death for the abuse the old school baseball writers get - an who's to say that they don't decide to collude en masse to screw the posterboy of the stats revolution.

and even if Bert gets in - how does this tone of argument help the next guy in the chain - Raines or whoever

You don't have to try and win every battle by a massacre to win the war - the tide is already turning for us - don't throw it away now especially on a 'twitter post' - really? one of about a million that he makes