Posts Tagged ‘Mel Harder’

Hope for Hall of Fame Pitchers

December 14, 2017

Ferguson Jenkins

There are two relatively new trends occurring in Hall of Fame voting (both BBWAA and the various Veteran’s Committees) that bear watching closely. Both may, and I stress “may,” lead to new candidates getting a better shot at election, and “Old Timers” getting a better second look. To me, they are hopeful signs.

In 1991 Ferguson Jenkins made the Hall of Fame. In 1992 the Veteran’s Committee of the day elected Hal Newhouser. In 1996 the Vets again elected a pitcher, Jim Bunning. Then it took all the way to 2011 to elect Bert Blyleven. Other than those four (and a number of relievers and Negro League pitchers, both of which are different from starters) the Hall elected only 300 game winners. It seemed that the key to getting your ticket stamped for Cooperstown as a starter was to win 300 games. Then came 2015 and John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, and now Jack Morris. None won 300 games (none got overly close–Morris had 254). I think that’s a hopeful sign that the reliance on 300 wins as the metric for election is going away. I suppose there are a number of reasons why (like all the 300 winners are already in and you still want to put in a starter or two now and then just because you can) but to me it’s most important not for the reasons why but because it opens up the possibility of other non-300 game winners reaching Cooperstown. I’m one of those that believes Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina ought to be enshrined and neither got near 300 wins. So the new willingness to add in pitchers with lower win totals makes that much more possible.

Whatever you think of Morris making the Hall of Fame, he has one positive for pitchers still waiting, an enormous ERA. His 3.90 ERA is well above what you normally see in a Hall of Fame pitcher. There are a lot of Deadball guys with ERAs under three and several later starters with ERA’s in the mid-threes, but Morris is an outlier and that to me is a hopeful sign also. Because now it becomes more difficult to dismiss a pitcher simply because he has a high ERA. Andy Pettitte with his high ERA is on the horizon (and I mention him here without reference to steroid issues). Wes Ferrell, an excellent pitcher from the 1930s with an ERA over four suddenly has a better chance for Cooperstown (without reference to his bat, which I believe few voters will consider). There is also Mel Harder and George Earnshaw (neither of which I’m convinced are Hall of Fame quality, but ought to get another look) and a number of others like Eddie Rommel (whose ERA is near Mussina’s) and Bill Sherdel deserve another look (and again I’m not convinced either is up to Hall standards).

It is sometimes very difficult to be hopeful when discussing the Hall of Fame voting. But these are good signs moving forward. It will be interesting to see if either is maintained.

 

 

Modern Era Ballot: the Pitchers

November 28, 2017

With the contributors and everyday players out-of-the-way, it’s time to look at the pitchers appearing on the ballot.

Tommy John is known more for the surgery named for him than for his pitching. That’s a shame, because he was very good. Primarily a ground ball pitcher he won 288 games, lost 231, had an ERA of 3.34 (ERA+ 111), 2245 strikeouts, a 1.283 WHIP, and 62.3 WAR. He went to three World Series’ (losing all 3), and is perhaps most famous in Series play for being pulled at a critical time in game six of the 1981 Series. His team subsequently lost both the game and the Series.

Jack Morris unlike John, is known primarily for a World Series win–game 7 in 1991. It is frequently considered the second greatest pitching performance in a World Series game (behind Larsen in 1956). But Morris more than a single game. He led all pitchers in wins in the 1980s, had a no-hitter on national television, led his team to the World Series in 1984, 1991, and 1992, begin MVP in the middle one. For a career he went 254-186 with a 3.90 ERA (ERA+ 105), 2478 strikeouts, a 1.296 WHIP. and 43.8 WAR.

Luis Tiant was something of an enigma. He started his career strong, then faltered in the middle before coming back strong and leading the Red Sox to a World Series (which they lost). He won an ERA title in is fifth season, then had four terrible seasons. In 1972 he won another ERA title and pitched effectively through 1980. For his career he was 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA (ERA+ of 114) with 2416 strikeouts, a 1.199 WHIP, and 66.1 WAR.

At this point I have one vote left (of five). Frankly, I’d have little problem with any of these three reaching the Hall of Fame, although if I had my choice, I’d take Dr. Frank Jobe, the man who created Tommy John surgery. His pioneering work has saved a lot of pitching careers. I’m also aware that a high ERA is going to be a problem for Andy Pettitte (as will the steroid allegations) when he becomes eligible. The same problem also plagues Wes Ferrell and Mel Harder, two excellent pitchers of the 1930s. A vote for Morris might cut away some of that stigma and help each of the three. Tiant has the best ERA, WHIP, and WAR.

I think I’ll hold this vote for Dr. Jobe. Maybe he’ll show up soon.