If you look at the 2014 (the date the players are inducted, not the date the committee votes) Veteran’s Committee Ballot, there are two pitchers on the list. One was a starter, the other a reliever. Here’s a look at both (alphabetically).
Tommy John. That’s not a ballplayer, that’s a surgery, isn’t it? And that in many ways is the problem with Tommy John the player. Great pitchers have hooks. Sandy Koufax won five consecutive ERA titles. Cy Young won 500 plus games. Nolan Ryan struck out a gazillion batters. Tommy John had surgery. When your greatest hook is that you had your arm fixed, your Hall of Fame case takes a shot across the bow. Having said all that, let me remind you that John was a very good pitcher. He started with Cleveland in the mid-1960s, didn’t do much, was sent to Chicago (the White Sox, not the Cubs) and teamed with Gary Peters as the next great left-handed duo. Well, Peters got hurt, and so did John and the ChiSox didn’t do much. John won a high of 14 games with Chicago, had one ERA under two (1.98) and ended up traded to the Dodgers. He missed all of 1975 due to the surgery he made famous. He came back in 1976, went 10-11, then won 20 for the first time in 1977. He joked he was 34, but his arm was only two. He had another good year with LA, then went to the Yankees. He won 20 games two times, then was traded to the Angels. He had one year at Oakland, then ended up back with New York finishing his career in 1989.
For his career, John was 288-231 (.555 winning percentage), had an ERA of 3.34, and had 46 shutouts. He walked 1259 batters, struck out 2245, gave up 4783 hits, all in 4710 inning pitched. His WHIP is 1.283 and his ERA+ is 111. A sinker ball pitcher who threw a ton of ground balls, his high in strikeouts was only 138, which he did twice. He played in postseason five times, going 6-3 with two wins and one loss coming in the World Series. He was lifted early in game six of the 1981 World Series and his replacement gave up the losing runs. It was the deciding game of the Series. In three World Series appearances, his team never won.
The other pitcher on this year’s ballot is Dan Quisenberry, the Kansas City reliever. He was a right-handed closer who got to KC in 1979. He took the closer’s role the next season and led the Royals in saves for the next six seasons. He led the American League in saves five times, four in a row, which is still the record (it ties Bruce Sutter who did it in the National League). By way of comparison, Mariano Rivera only led the AL only three times. He started poorly in 1986, did worse in 1987, and in 1988 was traded to St. Louis. No longer the closer, he pitched through 1989 with the Cards, then went to San Francisco. He got into five games, tore his rotator cuff and retired. He wrote poetry in retirement and died of brain cancer in 1998,
For his career, Quisenberry was 56-46 with an ERA of 2.76, and 244 saves (sixth all time when he retired). He walked 162, struck out 379, gave up 1064 hits, all in 1043 innings pitched. His WHIP is 1.175 and his ERA+ is 146. He faced 4247 batter in his 1043 innings, or just over four batter an inning pitched. He averaged 1.5 innings pitched per game, meaning he frequently pitched more than just the ninth inning. In postseason play he had three wins, two in the World Series (including the “Denkinger blown call” game six of 1985) and four loses (two in the Series). He picked up three saves (only one in the World Series). He walked nine and struck out eight in postseason (six of the walks and three of the strikeouts coming in Series play). His 1985 team won the World Series.
So where do I stand on letting either man into the Hall of Fame? I can make a case for both, and frankly wouldn’t be upset if either or both made it to the Hall. John has a lot of wins, is instrumental in getting five teams to the playoffs. Quisenberry has the record for most seasons leading his league in saves and is arguably the best reliever of his time. But both have negatives. John was almost never seen as the ace of his staff and Quisenberry’s save number (the most significant number, ultimately, for a reliever) isn’t all that high. So this year, I think I’d pass on both for the Hall.