Baseball: the American game. In addition to being America’s pastime, it is a numerical paradise for stats junkies. No other sport tracks your every success and failure quite like baseball.
Aside from being littered with numbers, baseball also had its share of controversies throughout the ages (steroids era, for instance). There is one controversy which appears every year: the vote for the Hall of Fame.
A player’s supporters and detractors both use numbers to support their claims. Some claim numbers can be misleading because not all players played in the same era. While that is true, I shall present numbers to serve as evidence of the voters’ unwillingness to do their research thoroughly.
America’s education system does a poor job in math; therefore, it’s less than surprising to see voters here in America fail to thoroughly analyze and comprehend the numbers that are baseball statistics.
What will the presented numbers support or prove, you may ask? They will prove that the voters – for whatever unexplained reason(s) – are not as thorough in their research as we would like to believe. The numbers I present will show what an injustice it is to see Bert Blyleven toil in Hall of Fame uncertainty for many years while others are already enshrined in Cooperstown. How will I show that Blyleven is Hall-worthy? Simple: I shall compare his numbers to those of a Hall-of-Famer who played in the same era as Blyleven himself. That Hall-of-Famer is Nolan Ryan.
Ryan’s career spanned from 1966 to 1993; Blyleven’s career spanned from 1970 to 1992. Surely, we can agree Blyleven and Ryan both played in the same era, entered their primes in the same era and had their careers end in the same era. As a result, comparing one’s numbers to the other won’t be misleading, as they both played in the same era their entire careers.
Ryan is far ahead of Blyleven in total wins; however, keep in mind that Ryan started his career four years earlier than Blyleven, while Blyleven also retired one year earlier than Ryan. Ryan obviously pitched far more games and innings, thus having more opportunities to get wins.
Blyleven had 250 losses, compiling a .534 winning percentage in his career. Ryan suffered 292 losses in his career, compiling a .526 winning percentage. Blyleven has a better career winning percentage than Nolan Ryan. Surprising, isn’t it? If voters let wins influence their decision, then they might as well include winning percentage. I personally advise people not to put too much stock into wins and winning percentage, as they can be largely the byproduct of a good or poor team one pitches for. I merely present the wins and winning percentage of these two pitchers to remind those who are influenced by such numbers that Blyleven is on par with Ryan in those particular numbers.
If Blyleven had reached the magic number of 300 career wins, would he have been inducted into the Hall of Fame? We can only speculate as to what caused the voters to overlook Blyleven.
A good ERA by both pitchers in their respective careers. The gap between these two in ERA is small; therefore, you can’t truly argue that one was far greater than the other in this category.
The complete games totaled by Blyleven and Ryan would make Roy Halladay blush in shame. Despite starting his career four years later than Ryan and ending it one year earlier than Ryan, Blyleven bests Ryan by 20 complete games. I find the high volume of complete games by these two pitchers to be a task worthy of praise. A pitcher who can pitch a complete game demonstrates that he is capable of controlling a game and delivering his team to victory.
Yet another close stat between two fantastic pitchers. Once again, Blyleven is on par with Ryan, despite pitching far fewer innings and games.
Obviously, Ryan dwarfs Blyleven in strikeouts. Frankly, Ryan dwarfs EVERYBODY in strikeouts. Randy Johnson is a distant 2nd with “only” 4,875 strikeouts. The wide margin by which Ryan leads in strikeouts will not keep Randy Johnson out of the Hall of Fame; likewise, Greg Maddux – who was a finesse pitcher – also will not be kept out of the Hall of Fame. If Ryan’s strikeout totals aren’t going to affect the Hall chances of Johnson or Maddux, then they shouldn’t affect Blyleven’s chances.
Finally, my favorite pitching stat. I have always been a fan of WHIP because it shows which pitchers are the most dominant at keeping men off the basepaths. While Blyleven didn’t have Ryan’s penchant for striking out hitters, he was just as effective as Ryan at keeping men off base.
The numbers I presented clearly shown Blyleven was on par with Ryan in virtually all pitching stats in their respective careers (except strikeouts), and was better than Ryan in some of those stats. There is no opinion in numbers. Numbers are numbers and remain as fact. The only opinions are in those who interpret the numbers and how they choose to interpret the numbers. Other than strikeouts, Blyleven and Ryan had very similar numbers in their careers.
Blyleven never won the Cy Young Award; likewise, Ryan also never won the Cy Young. Blyleven finished in the top five in Cy Young voting three times; Ryan finished in the top five in Cy Young voting six times. Both men were excellent pitchers in an incredible pitching era which featured the likes of Jim Palmer, Bob Gibson, Gaylord Perry and Carlton Fisk. Those men got their due; Blyleven got overlooked.
Why is Ryan a no-doubt-about-it Hall-of-Famer and Blyleven continues to toil in Hall uncertainty? Was it the fact that Ryan achieved the magic number of 300 wins? There are men in the Hall of Fame with far fewer wins. Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax had only 165 wins; Don Drysdale registered only 209 wins. Was it the fact that Ryan tossed seven no-hitters? Was it the virtually unbreakable strikeout record he set? If Ryan didn’t reach 300 wins, didn’t pitch seven no-hitters and didn’t set the strikeout record, would he be suffering the same fate as Blyleven right now? None of us know the answer.
When you look at Blyleven’s numbers objectively, he is on par with Ryan’s career. Blyleven and Ryan posted similar numbers in the same era of baseball; unfortunately, they haven’t shared a similar fate in their retirement days. Hopefully, that will soon change.
If any voters are reading this and were on the fence about voting for Blyleven, I hope my interpretation of his numbers and stacking them up against Ryan’s numbers has convinced you to change your mind and give Blyleven his due.