Baseball BeatDecember 22, 2010
The Internet Zealot Responds
By Rich Lederer

One Blyleven Internet supporter is such a zealot that he has guessed as to the motives for the non-support, and even on occasion taken to outing non-supporters or ridiculing them, perhaps in an attempt at persuasion. Let me just say that I have nothing against Blyleven, and have been consistent in my non-support of him. My "no'' vote has nothing to do with the Internet campaign, which has only become apparent in Blyleven's final few years on the ballot, and appears to be effective, as Blyleven's totals have risen precipitously.

- Jon Heyman

After reading Heyman's column on Monday late afternoon, my son Joe sent me the following text, "New Christmas gift request... bumper sticker that reads: 'My Dad is a zealot.'" I wrote back, "One Blyleven Internet detractor is such a zealot that he writes about why he is NOT voting for him every year."

Heyman released his Hall of Fame ballot on Twitter several days ago but devoted his entire column on Monday (sans his picks on the second page) to "Why I didn't cast a Hall of Fame vote for Bert Blyleven, again." Incredible. He mentions Blyleven specifically or refers to him in 24 of the 26 paragraphs that comprise nearly 2,000 words. By comparison, he writes one paragraph on Roberto Alomar, his top candidate; four paragraphs defending his selection of Jack Morris over Blyleven; and a few sentences on a separate page on each of his five other picks (Barry Larkin, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Don Mattingly, and Dale Murphy).

I'd like to respond to the following excerpts from Heyman's column:

  • "Blyleven's most vocal Cooperstown supporters don't see him as borderline. They sometimes call his case 'indisputable' or 'undeniable.' I appreciate their enthusiasm, but the reality is that over 14 years of elections, he has received slightly less than half the votes. His supporters may think it is indisputable, but the voters seem to have been torn for 13 years."

    Heyman tries to use the fact that Blyleven has received "less than half the votes" against him, yet he himself is voting for Mattingly, Murphy, and Parker, none of whom has even sniffed 50 percent of the vote in a single year. In fact, the individual high among these three is 28.2% (Mattingly in his first year of eligibility in 2001). All three players were greats at their respective peaks but the truth of the matter is that the trio has been polling about 10-20 percent of the vote every year they have been on the ballot.

  • "In filling out my ballot, I go more by impact than career numbers. Part of that is that I am old enough to have been around as long as every single player on the ballot by this point."

    Here we go with "impact" and being "around as long as every player on the ballot" again. I tackled these obsessions two years ago.

    "I saw him play his entire career."

    Congratulations, Jon. If you "saw him play his entire career," then so did I. But the truth of the matter is that neither one of us saw him play his entire career. In fact, nobody has seen Blyleven play his entire career. Not his parents. Not his wife. Not his kids. Not any one teammate. Not any announcer, writer, or team executive.

    Like me, you may have been alive back then. Like me, you may have even seen him pitch many times. Like me, you may have watched him perform on TV. Like me, you may have even read about him in the newspapers or magazines when he was playing.

    Unlike me, you covered Blyleven when he pitched for the Angels toward the end of his career. Unlike you, I umpired a game behind the plate that he pitched. In other words, I saw Bert's curveball, the one that Bill James and Rob Neyer ranked as the THIRD-BEST EVER in The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, up close and personal.

    But, when it comes to judging Blyleven's career, none of these facts really matter all that much. You see, I never once saw Babe Ruth play. Or Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, or Walter Johnson. Or Tris Speaker, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, or Joe DiMaggio. But I can still say with 100 percent certainty that all of these players are Hall of Famers. By the same token, I didn't need to see thousands of other players in action to know they weren't Hall of Famers. Being there is great. It's fun. It's memorable. But it doesn't mean you know who is and who isn't a Hall of Famer.

    "It's not about's about impact."

    You gotta love this one. Shame on me. I have always been led to believe that stats lead to impact. I guess not. Rather than spending so much time on making the case for Blyleven via the numbers, maybe I should have emphasized the fact that Blyleven pitched for TWO World Championship teams. I won't mention that he was 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in five postseason series, including 2-1 with a 2.35 ERA in those two World Series because "it's not about stats." According to you, "it's about impact." And, thanks to you, I have now come to realize that Blyleven had little or no impact on the Pirates winning the World Series in 1979 or the Twins winning it all in 1987.

  • "If you put Blyleven's lifetime numbers through a computer, the computer would probably determine that he (and Abreu, for that matter) is a Hall of Famer. But the game is about human beings, not just numbers. It's about impact."

    There you go again with impact. You see, it's difficult to argue against impact. There are no numbers. Instead, it's all about feelings and beliefs and all those other intangible goodies that only certain people possess. Just close your eyes and relive the memories, however tainted they may be, of these, ahem, human beings!

  • "The Hall of Fame is about fame, and Blyleven's greatest fame came not while he was pitching well for five teams over 22 seasons but instead through his extended candidacy and the controversy surrounding it after he had retired."

    Fame. I always love that one. Another touchy-feely qualification. Alomar, Larkin, and Parker. Now those guys were famous. Even though Blyleven won two World Championships, struck out more batters than all but four pitchers and threw more shutouts than all but eight in the history of baseball, completed the third-most 1-0 shutout victories ever and the highest total in 75 years, pitched a no-hitter, and had the greatest curveball of his era and one of the best of all-time, he wasn't famous. Or at least not in Jon Heyman's world.

  • "I, however, would argue that he was very good but not quite great. He assuredly dominated batters and games but he never dominated even one season or certainly a series of seasons."

    Sheesh. I have shown otherwise numerous times. Just because Blyleven didn't win the American League Cy Young Award in 1973 doesn't mean he wasn't the best pitcher in the league. He led the AL in WAR (9.2), ERA+ (158), K/BB (3.85), and SHO (9). He ranked second in ERA (2.52), SO (258), BB/9 (1.86), and WHIP (1.12), third in K/9 (7.15) and CG (25), and fourth in IP (325) and HR/9 (0.44). That's one heck of a résumé, no? Nonetheless, he received one point and finished seventh in the Cy Young balloting that season. As I reported six years ago, "One voter out of 24 saw fit to pencil Bert's name into the third slot on the ballot. The other 23 writers ignored him completely. Instead, they voted for Jim Palmer #1, Nolan Ryan #2, Catfish Hunter (and his 3.34 ERA in a pitcher's ballpark) #3, John Hiller #4, Wilbur Wood #5, and Jim Colborn #6. Palmer had two more wins than Blyleven and an ERA that was 0.12 lower. Otherwise, Palmer had inferior stats across the board, including WAR (6.1), ERA+ (156), K/BB (1.40), SHO (6), SO (158), BB/9 (3.4), WHIP (1.14), K/9 (4.8), CG (19), IP (296.1), and HR/9 (0.49), yet he received 88 points, including 14 first-place votes. Go figure.

    Did I mention that Palmer also received much better run and defensive support than Blyleven? The Baltimore Orioles scored 4.7 runs per game for Palmer while the Minnesota Twins scored 4.2 for Blyleven. The Orioles led the AL in Defensive Efficiency (.731) while the Twins (.696) ranked eighth out of 12 teams. Looked at it another way, Baltimore (119 FRAA) was 137 fielding runs better than Minnesota (-18). These fielding differences showed up in Palmer's and Blyleven's batting average on balls in play. Palmer had a .234 BABIP and Blyleven had a .292 BABIP. With an infield that included Bobby Grich, Mark Belanger, and Brooks Robinson, the O's (184) also turned a lot more double plays than the Rod Carew-Danny Thompson-Steve Braun Twinkies (147).

    Look, if you're into performance, you take Blyleven. On the other hand, if you're like Heyman and care more about impact, you take Palmer because he was selected as the Cy Young Award winner.

    As for "a series of seasons," Blyleven led the major leagues in Runs Saved Against the Average (RSAA) over four-consecutive, five-year rolling periods (1971-75, 1972-76, 1973-77, and 1974-78). As I highlighted last January, "Over the past 50 years, the five-year leaders have included Don Drysdale (1x), Sandy Koufax (3x), Juan Marichal (2x), Bob Gibson (2x), Tom Seaver (2x), Bert Blyleven (4x), Jim Palmer (1x), Steve Carlton (3x), Dave Stieb (5x), Roger Clemens (7x), Greg Maddux (5x), Pedro Martinez (4x), Randy Johnson (2x), Johan Santana (3x), and Roy Halladay (1x). While it may be too early to judge Santana and Halladay, 11 of the other 12 pitchers are either enshrined or will be enshrined (including several "inner circle" Hall of Famers). The only exception is Stieb, whose HOF case was derailed by a relatively short career."

  • "He never finished higher than third in the Cy Young balloting and only four times finished in the top 10, meaning he was never considered among the two best pitchers in his league during his time."

    The operative word here is "considered." While Blyleven "was never considered among the two best pitchers in the his league," he was one of the two best pitchers in his league three times as measured by WAR (including twice leading the league in that all-encompassing counting stat) and four times as measured by the rate stat ERA+. He was as overlooked and underappreciated during his playing career as he has been over the first 13 years of being on the Hall of Fame ballot.

  • "Blyleven was never considered to be in the category of the game's best pitchers during his career. He simply outlasted almost everyone else and kept pitching effectively into his 40s."

    There's that word "considered" again. Heyman can side with opinions and I'll side with the facts, thank you. The facts in this case tell us that Blyleven was one of the game's best pitchers during his career. I've given multiple examples of the facts already. As for "simply outlasting almost everyone else and pitching effectively into his 40s," that's not entirely accurate. Blyleven pitched only one season in his 40s and it wasn't very effective (8-12, 4.74 ERA, 84 ERA+ in 133 IP) if the truth be told.

  • "He never led the league in wins or ERA, though he did lead the league in home runs allowed twice and earned runs allowed once."

    This is not only misleading, but it's clearly a low blow. Blyleven led the league in home runs in 1986 and 1987 when he was 35 and 36 years old. He led the league in earned runs in 1988 when he was 37. Of note, Morris, whose HOF candidacy Heyman supports, gave up the second-most number of HR in 1986 and 1987 and was sixth in earned runs allowed in 1988. For what it's worth, Morris led the league in ER and BB, as well as wild pitches six times. All I'm asking for is some consistency in judging players.

  • "He only received MVP votes twice, finishing 26th in 1973 and 13th in 1989. According to, he ranks 936th alltime in MVP shares at 0.09."

    Once again, Heyman looks for a reason *not* to vote for Blyleven. Morris ranks 770th all-time in MVP shares at 0.18. No on the guy at 936th. Yes on the guy at 770th. Yup, I get it.

  • "But it's hard to go back and look at his individual seasons and see a case where he should have ranked in the top 10 in MVP voting in any of his 22 years. He never dominated in any one season and was never among the very best."

    Morris never finished in the top ten in MVP voting. If it doesn't apply to Morris, why should it apply to Blyleven? My goodness. Besides, Blyleven dominated in several seasons and was regularly among the very best. I didn't even know who Heyman was six years ago but this article could have been written just for him.

  • "I did promote Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young, but I still see winning as the ultimate goal in each game, and Blyleven didn't win all that many more games than he lost."

    Now that is one strange compound sentence. While I'm glad that Heyman promoted Felix for the CYA, this point proves how illogical or biased he is when it comes to evaluating Blyleven. Hernandez was 13-12 in 2010. He won one more game than he lost, yet Heyman supported him as the best pitcher in the league whereas he won't vote for Blyleven because he only won 37 more games than he lost during his career. Bert's career W-L percentage? .534. Felix's 2010 W-L percentage? .520.

  • "Blyleven's backers sometimes will also act astounded or even apoplectic over the fact that some, including myself, support Jack Morris over Blyleven. Morris' career totals generally aren't as good as Blyleven's. But with Morris, to some degree, you had to be there."

    Heyman admits Morris' career totals aren't as good as Blyleven's. But, you see, with Morris, you just had to be there. I don't get it. You had to be where? If you were there, I was there. Maybe not literally. But I was paying close attention all along. Unlike you, I don't think that means all that much. I mean, did you see every game he pitched? If so, what did you think about this one? Or are you just referring to that one? How much better was that Game Seven performance than Mickey Lolich's 8 2/3 scoreless innings and 4-1 complete-game victory over Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Seven of the 1968 World Series? By the way, Morris and Lolich, both of whom were World Series heroes, had career ERA+ of 105 in a comparable number of innings. Did you ever vote for Lolich for the Hall of Fame? His impact was historic. But maybe you weren't there.

  • "(Morris) was the ace of three World Series-winning franchises, and while Blyleven also pitched very well in the postseason, he was never the ace."

    Who cares if he was the ace in those particular years? Blyleven "pitched very well in the postseason" by your admission. It doesn't matter what you call him. You think it's all about impact and human beings and fame and having to be there and being called an ace. I say performance trumps them all. And, in this regard, Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA in the postseason, including 4-2, 2.96 in the World Series. Blyleven was 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in the postseason with better peripherals and 2-1, 2.35 ERA in the World Series.

  • "Morris has a high lifetime ERA, 3.90. But some of that is due to the 6.19 and 5.60 marks he put up in his final two seasons. And part of it is due to him pitching to the scoreboard, which the very best pitchers could do."

    Nice try. If you exclude Morris' last two seasons, he had an ERA of 3.73 (with a ERA+ of 109). By the same token, if you exclude Blyleven's last two seasons, he had an ERA of 3.22 (with a ERA+ of 122). No matter how you cut it, so to speak, Blyleven had a much better ERA and ERA+ than Morris.

    As for "pitching to the scoreboard," Jay Jaffe, who was just elected to the Baseball Writers Association of America, debunked that nonsense in his recent annual review of the Hall of Fame cases of starting pitchers, linking to research by Greg Spira and Joe Sheehan that "has long since put the lie to this claim." Sheehan's conclusion? "I can find no pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score—and I don't doubt that he changed his approach—the practice didn't show up in his performance record."

  • "In the end, the best are not defined by being consistently good and sticking around long enough to post totals beyond their actual impact. That's what Blyleven did."

    Gosh, shame on me. I thought being consistently good and pitching for a long time were huge positives. In fact, in Blyleven's case, he ranks 13th all-time among pitchers in Baseball-Reference WAR with 90.1 because he combined quantity and quality like so few others. By comparison, Morris ranks 140th with 39.3. This stat would suggest that Blyleven was worth 50 more wins above replacement than Morris. Not that WAR is the be all and end all to performance measurement, but that gap is so wide that it would be virtually impossible to bridge via impact alone.

    By the way, the four pitchers in front of and behind Blyleven in WAR? Greg Maddux Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Warren Spahn, Randy Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, and Steve Carlton. The four pitchers in front of and behind Morris in WAR? Ed Reulbach, Dizzy Dean, Noodles Hahn, Carl Mays, Ted Breitenstein, Murry Dickson, Harry Brecheen, and Al Leiter.

  • "Morris. He finished with 254 wins and 175 complete games while leading the league at various times in wins (twice), starts (twice), complete games, shutouts and innings pitched."

    Wow. That's really something. Blyleven finished with 287 wins and 242 complete games while leading the league at various times in shutouts (3x), strikeouts-to-walks (3x), innings pitched (2x), games started, complete games, and strikeouts, as well as WHIP and ERA+. Seems pretty straightforward to me. If Morris is a Hall of Famer, he needs to wait until after Blyleven has been inducted to be taken seriously. As Craig Calcaterra has said repeatedly, "You can vote for Jack Morris for the Hall of Fame. You can vote for Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame. You can also keep both of them out if you’re a small-Hall kind of guy. You cannot, however, vote for Jack Morris and not vote for Bert Blyleven."

    I agree with Craig, which is another way of saying that if Heyman were intellectually honest and consistent, I wouldn't have a problem with him voting for Morris or not voting for Blyleven. To quote Craig, "There are no right and wrong Hall of Fame votes. There are right and wrong approaches to voting however." Well said, my friend.

    Blyleven fell five votes shy of the Hall of Fame last year. If everybody who voted for him does so again, this should be the year as it appears that there may be enough voters who are reconsidering his candidacy to finally make it happen.

  • Comments

    Loved Dan Szymborski's tweets yesterday, including the fact that if Morris could have "stuck around long enough", he would have needed "only" 1146 more IP at a 2.04 ERA in order to match Bert's career line. That's pretty much the line Sandy Koufax posted from 1962 to 1965, so sure, Morris could have easily "compiled" Bert's career numbers.

    The moment I read Heyman's column the other day I was eagerly awaiting for your thoughtful response. It never ceases to amaze me that such misguided thoughts like Heyman's are prominently displayed on major sports sites like CNNSI, lending undue credence to opinions that are completely off-base. I hope Bert gets in to the HOF this year, as he so clearly deserves. Even more so, thanks to the contributors to this site for continuosly adding to our enjoyment of such a great game.

    Happy Holidays!

    Great column. While I appreciate the effort you put into this, it seems to me at this point none of it matters to Heyman. There is no way he is typing his nonsense with even a slight intention of meeting any standard of intellectual consistency. When he has to make such convoluted arguments for Morris where Blyleven is markedly better in nearly every regard it is obvious to me he feels he has painted himself into a corner and he just refuses to admit he was mistaken. He would rather continue to be wrong than admit to having been wrong.

    Largebill, I couldn't agree more. Heyman is not changing his opinion, especially now that he feels like he has been backed into a corner by Rich.

    What might convince Heyman or others like him to re-evaluate their approach in voting and evaluating past players, is a more restrained and concilitory tone. The Blyleven argument seems to be degrading into ad hominen attacks rather than trying to explore the reasons why a certain picture of Blyleven has crystalized in the minds of many. Is it because, as Rich posits, that Bert's relatively low season win totals snowed contemporary awards voters into thinking that Bert was not deserving of AS or CY recognition? Or does Blyleven's poor AS/CY record provide an objective record of subjective evaluation by comtemporary sportswriters - regardless of Bert's "traditional" stat line? How much weight should be given to contemporaneous award votes in a single season or aggregate vote totals over a career?

    I think that if Bert Beckers conceded that Blyleven's record in contempraneous award votes is low for a HOF candidate and does not, in general, reflect a record of a slam-dunk HOF'er. But despite that, arguments for Blyleven's induction outweigh the general lack of contemporaneous recognition as reflected by those awards. I think that would go a long way towards getting others to look at the record as a whole. Otherwise it seems like Rich and others are simply discounting and turning a blind eye towards those facts. That does not serve the argument, but backs people into corners and competing camps.

    I think Heyman and others are changing their overall approach of player evalution -- as evidenced by recent CY voting, but in this case, Heyman and others have entrenched views about Blyleven that are not going to change, and the tone of these posts will not change that either. Blyleven may not, in fact, get the votes he needs for election to the Hall.


    I think the reason that sportswriters like Jon Heyman use "impact" as a measure over stats is because they feel that if it came down to stats, then they wouldn't be any more informed than a fan with an internet connection and a FanGraphs bookmark might be. In other words, watching games from his professional perch gives him far more insight than us sitting in the cheap seats below, so we of course are in no position to evaluate the respective Hall of Fame case of each player.

    But as strongly as you feel about Bert Blyleven's case the one I can't abide by is his inclusion of Dave Parker and Dale Murphy and exclusion of Jeff Bagwell, whose numbers are vastly superior than either and who was a consistently excellent player throughout his entire career. I wouldn't have minded reading a column justifying that decision rather than one rehashing the same tired case against Blyleven.

    Heyman reacts to Blyleven the same way vampires react to sunlight.

    "completed the third-most 1-0 shutout victories ever"

    Isn't that the epedomy (sp?) of pitching to the scoreboard? "My team's only giving me one run, guess I have to throw a shutout." That's much more indicative of a great pitcher than "Hey, I've got 8 runs, guess I can give up 7."

    Re Heyman's argument that Blyleven mainly pitched pretty well for a long time --

    I believe there is a variation on WAR called "Win Above All-Star" (or something like that), that compares a player's performance to an elite, as opposed to a replacement, level. Has anyone computed this for Blyleven or Morris? My guess is that the former still will show better, and that this would completely debunk this criticism of Blyleven.

    Here is something I posted on my blog earlier this year

    You might know that Blyleven had a 2.8 strikeout-to- walk ratio. It was also 75% better than the league average and that is the 29th best ratio relative to the league average since 1900 for pitchers with 2000+ IP (Greg Maddux is the guy just ahead of him with 75.5%). All data is from the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia. Hall of Famers he is ahead of include:

    Juan Marichal
    Jim Bunning
    Three Finger Brown
    Sandy Koufax
    Addie Joss
    Don Sutton
    Chief Bender
    Don Drysdale
    Tom Seaver
    Rube Marquard
    Bob Feller
    Gaylord Perry
    Hal Newhouser
    Lefty Gomez
    Eddie Plank

    I also found the pitchers since 1900 who had the most seasons in the top 5 in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Here are the leaders:

    Walter Johnson 16
    Bert Blyleven 13
    Mike Mussina 13
    Robin Roberts 13
    Carl Hubbell 12
    Christy Mathewson 12
    Greg Maddux 12
    Lefty Grove 12
    Don Sutton 11
    Jim Bunning 11
    Randy Johnson 11

    Only the great Walter Johnson, one of the first five members of the Hall of Fame, is ahead of Blyleven. Now for the pitchers who had the most seasons in the top 10 in strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    Greg Maddux 17
    Bert Blyleven 16
    Don Sutton 16
    Walter Johnson 16
    Christy Mathewson 15
    Grover C Alexander 15
    Mike Mussina 15
    Roger Clemens 15
    Ferguson Jenkins 13
    Jim Bunning 13
    Lefty Grove 13
    Robin Roberts 13

    *Grabs a bucket of popcorn*

    Heyman's claim that he was old enough to see their entire career is also irrelevant since Heyman was 13 years old when Blyleven was in his prime. Heck I remember thinking that Mel Hall and Matt Nokes were really awesome players back when I was 13 years old.

    Generally speaking, there is a very high chance that a 13 year old doesn't really have a great feel for what kind of impact or greatness a player is demonstrating on the field (unless we're talking about super legendary players like Michael Jordan, Gretzky, Ruth, etc.)

    It is unfortunate that Heyman's perspective has not developed any maturity or growth since that teen age.

    And I think his exclusion of Bagwell is more insulting than his exclusion of Blyleven. He didn't even give a reason for not voting for Bagwell. He just said he'll think about it again next year. That's kind of irresponsible or lazy, no? At least he has some reasons for voting against Blyleven (unspectacular W-L%), but for Bagwell he could not come up with a single thing against him. I'm guessing this is a case where a guy just doesn't feel like a HOF player to him. Which if true speaks more to how flawed Heyman's perception is, not to how flawed Bagwell's HOF case is.

    rbj, I think you're looking for "epitome."

    Craig, B-R defines 5+ WAR (their flavor, obviously) as "All-Star level," so calculating WAAS on the quick-and-dirty would be as simple as WAR - (5*Seasons). For Morris, it's 39.3 - (5*18) = -50.7 (in other words, on average Morris was closer to replacement level than All Star. Just sayin'). For Blyleven, it's 90.1 - (5*22) = -19.9. Considering that a twenty-two year career is going to have some long-ass tails, I'd say it's pretty damn impressive that he comes reasonably close to averaging an All-Star level of performance over his entire career.

    Strip away all the convoluted arguments, and what it comes down to is a fundamental difference as to the job of a HoF voter. Heyman believes it is his job to determine the conventional wisdom of the past and perpetuate it. Actually using his own skills of evaluation is not his job. You, on the other hand, believe (correctly, IMO) that the Hall should not merely represent the beliefs of the past, but embody the best knowledge of today. This divide will never be bridged.

    I'm with Hayes. The Blyleven argument isn't about feelings or perceptions, it's about HIS NUMBERS over the course of his career. These numbers clearly show--irrespective of Heyman's opinion to the contrary--that Blyleven should be IN.

    If anything, Blyleven's an example of a modern/Internet inclusion of numbers allowing baseball fans--who frankly know as much about baseball as Heyman or other voters--to clearly justify why players like Blyleven merit inclusion. This is no place more true than with baseball fans fighting against arguments by entrenched baseball writers that start with "I saw X play," "X didn't win Y award," or "I never considered X an I won't vote for him."

    Thank you Rich for being such a zealot. Happy Holidays and good luck to Bert!

    I'm probably gonna catch some flack for this, but... while Bert Blyleven ABSOLUTELY belongs in the Hall of Fame, I have no problem with Heyman's support for Morris. It is the Hall of FAME. It's a museum to the history of baseball and it's greatest players. Whether they were deserved or not, Cy Young votes and "being the ace" on three World Series championship teams DOES have a place in the history of baseball.

    That said, performance comes first, and Blyleven HAS to go in.

    Before ripping me, please note one more time: NOT SAYING MORRIS SHOULD BE IN BEFORE BLYLEVEN! Just saying that I don't have a problem with Heyman's case for Morris on it's own merit.

    I've often wondered if Bert shut out Heyman's favorite team a few too many times, or gave the famous Blyleven hotfoot to one of his favorite players back in the day.

    Such unreasoning distaste for a given player seems to not infrequently be tied to such things.

    First, let me get out of the way the bottom line: There's no question Blyleven deserves to be in the HOF and I'm glad that statistical analysis had shed important light on his worthiness. But I have to say I'm uncomfortable with the way so many sabremeticians look to destroy Heyman, who I think is one of the best reporters -- which is what he is, not an analyst -- covering baseball. One of the great things about HOF voting is there is plenty of room for subjectivity and interpretation -- it's not just an exercise in data warehousing. Heyman is interpreting numbers differently than many of the readers of this and other blogs are, which is perfectly fine. I don't agree with all of his intepretations, but I don't view his comments as evidence of his being a lower life form. I read Heyman's column the day he posted it, and I think he was far more conciliatory and open toward sabremetrics than people on this blog might want to admit. Again, fine and dandy. Heyman didn't rip anyone in his column, either by general category or certainly by name. I wish Rich's post -- which I found full of great analysis, by the way, -- didn't make it such a personal attack on Heyman. As Rodney King famously said, can't we all get along?

    Great stuff, as usual, Rich. Hey, when Blyleven is elected (note "when," not "if," though no thanks to Heyman), will you help me out and take up Edgar's case? :-)

    Rich Lederer is to Jon Heyman as Obama is to W. Regardless of your politics or whether you like him, one is thoughtful and provides evidence for his decisions, the other is a "decider" who "feels" certain ways.

    Great post by Rich.

    Unnecessary and annoying comment by Alex, no matter your political persuasion.

    Ok -- I went back to bb-ref and looked at year-by-year WARs. I added together all WARs in excess of 5, ignoring any years less than 5.

    Blyleven had nine seasons in which his WAR was over 5.0; the total "excess" (i.e., wins above all-star) was 13.6.

    Morris had just one season (1979). His total was 0.1.

    I did the same for "wins above starter" (defined as WARs over 2.0). For Blyleven, it's 55.8; for Morris, it's 18.5.

    It's clearly not just a longevity advantage.

    I see Rich in the Henry Fonda role in 12 Angry Men, while Jon is the last angry man to change his vote, pulling out and ripping up his Blyleven baseball card. "He's a no-good punk!!!"

    It would be one thing if the Burt supporters were using emotion to plead their case. That would be easy to dismiss (though it worked for Tony Perez) by any rational thinker. But they're not. Simple objecive analysis, refutation of nearly every one of Jon's reasons, often by using his own logic against him.

    What I don't appreciate, though, is Jon publishing his reasons AFTER he's sent his vote in. At the least he should give Bert supporters one last chance to change his mind. Doesn't seem to be something he wants to do, though.

    We can only hope this is the last time we have to complain about Jon on this subject. if not, Rich, you'll have to send your standard support package to each voter next October or so. 'cause now, it's too late.

    Hey, Rich. Just read the first post in the "Burt Blyleven" series in the left column from seven years ago.
    Wow, 30%. Keep fighting! Voters are getting it. Jon is a lost cause. Move on to the others.

    oops. "Bert."

    Have Buster Olney, T.R. Sullivan, Bill Conlin changed their votes yet?

    Fine argument as usual, your analysis is both provocative and concise. Sportswriters are a frustrating and frequently uninspired intellectual lot to begin with and Heyman is no exception. Curiously, most annoying is his preoccupation with "scooping" fellow beat writers on the latest trade rumor, a trivial accomplishment at best.

    Thanks everyone for your comments.

    Re Olney, Sullivan, and Conlin, the latter two have changed their mind and are now voting for Blyleven each year. Olney has not changed his mind and is unlikely to change his mind as far as I can tell.

    Sparky Anderson, God rest his soul, is reconsidering his fairness comment after Jon Heyman's column.

    Rich let me say at the outset that I agree Dutch Bert Happy-living man should be in the HoF

    But I don't agree with your attack on Heyman, I actually think his 1st age were classy and concilliatory to the 'net' supporters who give him a lot of abuse - ok i get that 'zealot' may have negative connotations with Religion, but I'd take it a compliment of your excellent commitment to Bert's cause. His 'reasons' for his voters i don't always agree with, and sometimes are not consistent

    The interesting thing is that Heyman voted for Raines - who is a sabr icon

    The fact is, without you leading the excellent case for him, he wouldn't have a sniff.

    His polls were 17; 15 and 17 % in his 1st 3 years, not signs that he was thought of as a HoF

    Now Berts problem was that the writers/commentators at the time didn't think of him as an HoF pitcher, or even an ace.

    Yes the numbers now show that this is not true

    But you have to remember that the stats like his WAR value (an output of a v.good to elite K/BB ratio, due to lowish BB/9 and good K/9) were not in the vocab of the assessors of his career at the time, no such thing as era+, adjustment for playing in a hitters park or for crappy teams.

    Saying that he should have won the CY for being 1st in WAR when the guy who won it (Palmer) had a better W total and lower era isn't going to change the old schools guys minds is it?

    Bert was v.v.good for a long time, without leading the league much, Heyman calls it a lack of impact, I may call it not a lot of black ink, lots of gray ink - looks like a guy who was underrated while he was playing and straightafter, because while being a top 5 pitcher, he was rarely thought of as the best (rightly or wrongly), he also has been reported as rubbing people up te wrong way, probably help.

    For Morris, the opposite would appear true, numbers indicate he was overrated, but that doesn't stop people still thinking he was an ace.

    Looks to me like Mike Mussina is his future comp for HoF voting (Abreu was used, which actually is also not too bad) - though i think Moose gets in before his 14th go around

    Anyway, good luck Bert & Rich, don't fall off the horse in the final furlong, people still haven't submitted their ballots yet - so don't abuse the dudes with the power

    Great stuff as usual Rich. The second I saw Heyman's comments on his votes this year, my first thought was "can't wait to read Rich Lederer's response". I have full confidence Blyleven gets in this year, which will make my co-workers happy as I can stop ranting about the exclusion every January.

    Excellent, but wasted. There is an old saying that you cannot use reason to get a man out of a position that he never used reason to get into. Unless you have developed some radical new techniques of brain surgery, you will never make Jon Heyman into a rational being. It's just that simple.

    Eric, I suspect Rich's goal here isn't to secure Heyman's vote. That's a lost cause. But in making the case by ripping Heyman's arguments apart, he may convince someone else who was on the fence. Heyman does a good job of articulating all of the idiotic arguments for keeping Blyleven out, and it gives Rich a pretty convenient avenue for attacking those arguments that may work on someone else. Rich doesn't have to attack a strawman here. He's got a guy with a big microphone actually making all of those counterpoints for him.

    I am a small hall guy for sure and so if I had a vote it would never be given to Bert or Jack.

    Of course, neither would many others already enshrined have received my vote. Despite there being current weak members, I do not hold with the fallacious argument that if so and so is there then so and so belongs. The fact that a mistake was made in the past does not necessitate making more mistakes now. Or at least it shouldn't.

    I cannot fathom anyone being willing to vote for Morris who would not be willing to vote for Blyleven, however - the inconsistency of thought that position takes is simply too mysterious for comprehension.

    Some have different criteria than others when deciding who belongs in the Hall of Fame and who doesn't. I would think one should consider any and all pieces of info and such. That some have limited criteria is a shame but whatever one feels comfortable doing.... what can you do, right?

    I didn't know this until this article compelled me to look it up, but from 1971-1983 Blyleven led the MLB in FIP, pitching 3013 innings at 2.85. Say what you will about his .292 BABIP during that time (Seaver, who was #2 with a 2.97 FIP, had a .266 BABIP), but the man absolutely dominated the old K, BB, HR line.

    The dispute here is simply between those who think that we can increase our understanding of baseball players through time, and those who find that idea scary and threatening.


    I'm going to have to take umbrage with this article. While you may not agree with Heyman's article explaining his vote against Blyleven, it was not emotionally based...or wasn't written as such. Unfortunately, your emotions get the best of you here. I understand you've written a number of pieces in favor of Blyleven's inclusion to the HOF based on numbers, you don't need to stoop to an emotional level for a rebuttal.

    Personally, I believe in a small HOF. I don't think Blyleven or Morris belong in, but that's just me. I do have a couple of points to pick at, however:

    1. WAR is not 100% accurate, so to simply rely on that is not a perfect argument for him to be in.
    2. So what if Blyleven's curve ball was the 3rd best a few people have ever seen? That's not one of the criteria for getting in. I wish people would get away from that. Herb Washington was one of the quickest men on the basepaths, and Brett Butler was one of the best bunters I've ever seen. Doesn't mean they're HOFers.
    3. Your "series of seasons" isn't how a HOFer is chosen. If so, Mark Grace would be in for most hits in the 1990s, and Albert Belle for RBIs in the same decade. Unfortunately, that's why Richie Ashburn was voted in.
    4. Your Hernandez/Blyleven argument is woefully inadequate. Hernandez went 13-12 (.520 winning pct.) for a team that won 61 games, or above their winning pct. by 148 points. Blyleven's career .536 winning pct. is ahead of his team's winning pct (when he wasn't pitching) by .045. Big difference.
    5. I don't support Morris for the HOF (and I was there LOL), but I also don't support Blyleven. And here's why I don't support Blyleven:

    a) I think Blyleven was a better pitcher than Hunter, and I think he was a better pitcher than Sutton. But the voters make mistakes, I don't think they should expand the HOF just because Blyleven is better than those two.
    b) People tend to claim that Blyleven pitched for bad teams. He didn't; their winning pct. when he wasn't pitching was .491, as I stated before. Seaver pitched for bad teams. Please stop making that claim.
    c) Run support? Try this:


    Morris – 4.82
    Palmer – 4.38
    Carlton – 4.37
    Hunter – 4.30
    Niekro – 4.22
    Blyleven – 4.19
    Sutton – 4.14
    Seaver – 3.94
    Perry – 3.92
    Ryan – 3.80

    d) Winning pct, 2 or less runs of support in an outing:

    Winning percentage, less than 2 runs in an outing.

    Seaver .500
    Palmer .407
    Niekro .405
    Carlton .382
    Hunter .380
    Perry .344
    Sutton .329
    Ryan .319
    Blyleven .293

    e) Winning pct, 3 or less runs of support in an outing:

    Winning pct., less than 3 runs in an outing.

    Palmer .635
    Sutton .612
    Seaver .560
    Ryan .543
    Perry .542
    Hunter .475
    Carlton .473
    Niekro .387
    Blyleven .377

    Blyleven is dead last in each.

    f) There is a reason why he only received 17% of the votes the first year he was on the ballot. Why don't you analyze the reasons? What you're basically arguing is that they were all wrong. Some have come around; I'd argue that the constant pestering on ESPN and the internet has persuaded some to change their votes as Blyleven's career looks better and better in the rear view mirror.

    g) Blyleven trails 7 pitchers of his generation in wins. Fine, pitchers aren't in control over wins, as you've argued over and over again. But there something magical about 300 wins to the voters. Accept it (I don't agree with it either, but...). He didn't get there. That means something.

    h) As much as you'd like to, you can't throw away the fact that he was in two All-Star games, and he did poorly in the Cy Young/MVP voting. You just can't. Voters take these things seriously.

    i) What has been forgotten over time is how much Blyleven himself was obsessed with his statistics. He pitched for the 1979 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, and the team didn't like him. He got into fights with his manager about coming out of games (he wanted the CG on his stats), and he was a me-first player for a large part of his career. This gets forgotten over time, which is what I attribute to the increase in his support for the HOF as well.

    In short, I think Blyleven will get in this year. His announcing and success in the WBC has helped his cause. His numbers in the rear view mirror compared to today's pitchers have helped his cause. He was a very good pitcher, as Heyman mentioned, he's probably in the top 2% of all-time. Is that HOF material? I personally don't think so. (I think Morris is top 3%)

    I want to know from you - where do you stand on Abreu, if he sticks around for another 3-4 years? How many people are you voting for on your ballot?