Posts Tagged ‘Wes Ferrell’

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.



The 2015 Veteran’s Committee Election: the Pitchers

October 12, 2015

It’s that time of year again; the time of year each of you breathlessly await my take on the Veteran’s Committee vote for the Hall of Fame. So as not a disappoint a loyal (?) following here’s the beginning of this year’s take on the ballot. I’m starting with pitchers, of which there are two on the ballot. And a committee member is limited for voting for five nominees (and can vote for any number lower, including none).

Wes Ferrell

Wes Ferrell

Wes Ferrell is the better of the Ferrell brothers who played baseball in the 1930s. Rick, the brother, is in the Hall and that should make Wes an easy choice, but of course it doesn’t or he’d already be enshrined. He played from 1927 through 1941 mostly with Cleveland and the Red Sox (with late career trips to New York, Brooklyn, DC, and the Braves). He amassed 193 wins and 128 losses (for a .601 winning percentage. His ERA was 4.04 (ERA+ 116). His WHIP is 1.481 with a pitching WAR of 48.8. He walked more than he struck out (1040 to 985) and gave up more hits (2845) than he had innings pitched (2623). By way of compensation, he was a good hitter, going .280/.351/.446/.797 for a triple slash line and an OPS+ of 100 (hitting WAR 12.8). He had 38 home runs and 208 RBIs.

Bucky Walters

Bucky Walters

Bucky Walters started Major League Baseball life as a third baseman with the Phillies. He wasn’t bad, but by 1934 he was heading to the mound where he eventually became a fulltime pitcher. In 1938 he was traded to Cincinnati and became the team ace. He led the Reds to both the 1939 and 1940 World Series getting two wins in the 1940 victory over Detroit (and the 1939 National League MVP Award). He stayed around through 1948, then had a four inning stint with the Braves in 1950 to polish off his career. He went 198-160 for a .553 winning percentage. His ERA was 3.30 with an ERA+ of 116. His WHIP was 1.750 with a pitching WAR of 46.4. He walked 1121 men while striking out 1107 and gave up 2990 hits in 3105 innings. As a hitter his triple slash line is .243/.286/.344/.630 (OPS+ of 69) with 23 home runs and 234 RBIs (and 7.8 WAR). Because he spent several years as an infielder, his fielding numbers are significant (at least for the first few years). He committed 39 errors in 1271 innings and 204 chances as an infielder.

Neither man is a terrible choice for the Hall of Fame, but as I’ve only got five votes I think I’ll pass on both this time.

2015 Veteran’s Ballot Announced

October 9, 2015

According to “This Week in SABR”, the email notification I get each weekend the 2015 Veteran’s ballot is out. Here’s the list in the order they give it:

Doc Adams, Sam Breaden, Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, August “Gerry” Hermann, Marty Marion, Frank McCormick, Harry Stovey, Chris von der Ahe, Bucky Walters.

Several are holdovers from the last Segregation Era ballot but some are new. FYI and commentary to follow at some point.

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Dale Alexander

July 28, 2015
Dale Alexander while with Detroit

Dale Alexander while with Detroit

1. David Dale Alexander was born in Tennessee in 1903.

2. His father was a local baseball player and tobacco farmer. The son did not immediately follow in his Dad’s footsteps, but attended and graduated from Milligan College. He played baseball there and at Tusculum College in Greenville, his hometown. Frankly I’ve been unable to find out how the managed that. There is no evidence he went to Tusculum after graduating from Milligan.

3. In 1924 the Tigers picked him up and sent him to Class D baseball in his hometown.

4. He moved around a lot in the minors, staying through 1928. He won a Triple Crown for Toronto in 1928.

5. Alexander was an instant star, hitting .343 and leading the American League in hits with 215 in his rookie campaign. He ended up with 137 RBIs, a then rookie record (it was surpassed by Ted Williams).

6. In 1931 he had 47 doubles, second to Earl Webb’s record 67 (and still the record), but his home run totals dropped from 25 and 20 to three.

7. He started slowly in 1932 and ended up being traded to the Boston Red Sox (interestingly enough for Webb). It seemed to rejuvenate him and he ended up hitting .372 for Boston. His aggregate average was .367 and he won the 1932 AL batting title.

8. In August, his fourth inning single proved to be the only hit off Wes Ferrell and spoiled Ferrell’s no hit bid.

9. On 30 May 1933 Alexander was injured sliding into home. His injured leg was left too long in a new heat treatment and was badly burned. He never recovered. For his five-year career his triple slash line is .331/.394/.497/.891 with an OPS+ of 129. He hit 61 home runs (45 of them in his first two years) in 811 hits, scored 369 runs, and had 459 RBIs. His Baseball WAR is 15.6.

10. Between 1934 and 1942 he spent time in the minor leagues both playing and managing. His leg made it impossible for him to perform at Major League level, but he did well at AA level and lower.

11. In 1949 he became a scout for the New York Giants. He remained there through the 1950s and is the scout who discovered Willie McCovey.

12. He died in 1979.

Alexander's grave (from Find a Grave website)

Alexander’s grave (from Find a Grave website)

The Thin Red Line

December 27, 2012
Gee Walker

Gee Walker

As most of you know, I’m very pleased that Deacon White finally made the Hall of Fame. But did you look at who actually got in this time? You have a player who got the first hit in the history of the National Association, the first truly professional baseball league; an executive; and an umpire. Good for all of them. But if you look closely at the nominees for the period 1876-1946 you’ll see we are beginning to approach the thin red line of 1920-1946 players.

The thin red line is my phrase (it’s actually a British military phrase from the Crimean War)I use to denote the line beyond which you are beginning to elect players to the Hall of Fame who don’t deserve to be enshrined. Some (including me) might remark that in a couple of cases we’ve already slid below the line.  But the players in Cooperstown are already there and I can’t see taking anyone out.

Take a look at the players from the 1920-1946 era that were just nominated for Cooperstown: Marty Marion, Bucky Walters, Wes Ferrell. Are they truly the best players from the era not in the Hall of Fame? Maybe they are. I could make a case for them (and I could make a similar case for others). I could also make a case for keeping each out of Cooperstown (and could make similar cases for others). And that makes them “thin red line” candidates. Here’s a full team (eight position players and three pitchers) whose career is primarily in the 1920-46 era:

infield (first around to third): Hal Trosky, Marty McManus, Marty Marion, Harland Clift

outfield: Ken Williams, Gee Walker, Bob Johnson

catcher: Wally Schang (who actually plays quite a lot in the 19 teens)

pitchers: Wes Ferrell, Bucky Walters, Paul Derringer

Not a bad team, right? Put them all together and you’re going to win a lot of games.

But is this a team of Hall of Fame quality players? Maybe yes, maybe no. I wouldn’t be overly upset if any of them were elected, but it also wouldn’t bother me if none of them were chosen. They epitomize the “thin red line” of the Hall of Fame. Let them in and I might reply “OK, I guess”. Keep them out and I might reply “OK, I guess.”

My point in all this is that it appears the Hall of Fame has finally mined the 1920-1946 era of all the truly qualified players. What’s left are guys that are marginal at best and the idea of “marginal Hall of Famers” is really kind of silly, isn’t it? But my concern is that the Hall is desperate to hold the big ceremony every summer and to do that you must have someone to enshrine. If the writer’s don’t elect anyone (and with the weird ballot this year they might not) then the veteran’s committee nominees become critical. I’m afraid the Hall may put pressure on the Veteran’s Committee (a much smaller group) to “Put in someone, anyone, so we can at least get Deacon White’s great great grandchildren here to celebrate.”  And if that happens then every time we get to the 1876-1946 era the players from the 1920-46 period will be players that touch the “thin red line” of the Hall. That means we’ll be getting 19th  Century and Deadball Era players or marginal 1920s, 1930s, 1940s players making the Hall. The first two are fine by me, there are certainly enough decent 19th Century and Deadball players worth considering. But the latter worries me. We don’t need to lower the red line any further.

2012 Veteran’s Committee Ballot: the Pitchers

November 6, 2012

The 2012 Veteran’s Committee ballot lists three pitchers. Chronologically they are Tony Mullane, Wes Ferrell, and Bucky Walters. Here’s a quick review of each.

Tony Mullane

Let me begin this section with the same disclaimer that I used for the everyday players. No one alive today saw Tony Mullane pitch. So again, his stats and articles about him will be the only reference to used for determining his qualification for the Hall of Fame. He started in 1881 and played through 1894 (missing all of 1885). He was primarily a pitcher, but as was common in the era, played a lot of other positions. As a pitcher he was 284-220 (.563 winning percentage), pitched in 555 games (468 of the complete games), struck out 1803 and walked 1408 in 4531 innings. His ERA is 3.05 and his ERA+ is 117. He has a WHIP of 1.237 and has 30 shutouts. He led his league in winning percentage, hits, earned runs, walks, and strikeouts once each and led the league in shutouts twice (and in saves five times–although it wasn’t a stat yet). In the field he played 154 games in the outfield, 52 at third, and a handful at first, short, and  second. He hit .243, had an OBP of .307, slugged ..316 and ended with an OPS of .623 (OPS+ of 87). He scored 407 runs, had 223 RBIs, 661 hits, and 860 total bases. He spent about equal time in both the National League and the American Association, never won a pennant, and pitched at 45 feet, 50 feet, and the last year was on a mound. After his retirement, he became a sports writer and was noted during his career to have occasionally pitched left-handed (he was a natural righty), the only major pitcher to do so (although it seems to have been more a novelty than a normal occurence). In 1884 his battery mate was Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first black American to play in the Major Leagues. Mullane seems to have at least distrusted Walker’s baseball ability and would frequently throw a different pitch than the one Walker called for. I could not find any comment of overt racism on Mullane’s part so I won’t swear he had a racial problem, but considering the age and his attitude toward Walker as a catcher, it is likely (and certainly wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for the age). 

The other Ferrell brother

Wes Ferrell was a pitcher, primarily for Cleveland and the Red Sox in the 1920s and 1930s. He began his career in 1927 with the Indians and played his last game in 1941 with the Braves (his only year with them).  He made the World Series with the Yankees in 1938, but did not pitch in the Series. For his career he was 193-128 for a .601 winning percentage. His ERA was 4.04 (ERA+ of 116). In 2623 innings pitched he gave up 2845 hits, 1177 earned runs, 1040 walks, and struck out 985. He led the American League in wins once, and in hits allowed, innings pitched, home runs  allowed, earned runs, and walks a handful of times. His WHIP is 1.481. Ferrell was also a good hitting pitcher, holding the record for home runs by a pitcher at 38. For his  career he hit .280, had an OBP of .351, slugged .446, giving him an OPS of .797 (OPS+ of 100). In 1933 he played 13 games in the outfield. One of the major comments about Wes Ferrell is that he was better than his brother Rick, who is in the Hall of Fame. That may be true, but is not a reason for putting Ferrell in. It may simply indicate that the brother shouldn’t be enshrined. 

Bucky Walters

The third candidate for the Hall is Cincinnati right hander Bucky Walters. Walters is one of the last of a breed of players that you don’t see much anymore. He got to the Major Leagues as a third baseman, did alright, but wasn’t anything special. He switched to the mound and became an all-star. That doesn’t happen much. Bob Lemon is the last major player I could find who did it (most of the players who switched, like Babe Ruth, George Sisler, or Rick Ankiel, went from the mound to a position in the field).  He batted .243, had an OBP of .286, slugged ..344, for an OPS of .530 (OPS+ of 69). He had 477 hits, scored 277 times, had 234 RBIs, and 23 home runs, to go with 114 walks and 303 strike outs. But he’s being considered for the Hall of Fame because of his pitching. He was 198-160 (.533 winning percentage) with an ERA of 3.30 (ERA+ of 116). In 3104.2 innings he gave up 2990 hits, 1139 earned runs, 1121 walks, and struck out 1107. His WHIP was 1.324. He made the World Series with Cincinnati in both 1939 and 1940, winning the Series the second time. His overall record was 2-2 with a 2.79 ERA and seven walks with 12 strikeouts. He led the NL in losses, hits, strikeouts, and shutouts once each, in wins three times, and in ERA and WHIP twice. He was the 1939 National League MVP.

2012 Veteran’s Committee Ballot

November 2, 2012

Just got a first look at the 2012 Veteran’s Committee ballot. It contains 10 names and covers the period 1876-1946. Here (alphabetically) are the names on the ballot:

1. Sam Breadon–Cardinals owner who hired Branch Rickey

2. Bill Dahlen–Deadball Era shortstop

3. Wes Ferrell–1930s AL pitcher

4. Marty Marion–1940s Cardinals shortstop and MVP

5. Tony Mullane–1880s American Association pitcher and later sports writer

6. Hank O’Day–Deadball Era umpire

7. Alfred Reach–“Reach Guide” founder and sporting goods magnate

8. Jacob Ruppert–owner of the New York Yankees 1920s and 1930s

9. Bucky Walters–1930s-40s National League pitcher who won both an MVP and 1940 World Series

10. Deacon White–19th Century bare handed catcher and third baseman.

That’s the list. Will comment on it later. Election day is 3 December.