Apparently, from the looks of the baseball blogosphere lately, it is part of my duty as a baseball blog writer to put in my 2 cents on the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot.
On Jan 5, 2011, Hall of Fame BBWAA voting will be announced and we’ll have an entire week of blog postings doing post-vote analysis. Its a great little way to fill the time in-between insignificant FA signings but before pitchers and catchers report. However I have so tired of hearing about Bert Blyleven from every blogger on the planet that I had to write my own post specifically about him.
Bert Blyleven got 74.2% of vote in his 2nd to last year on the ballot in 2010 and the groundswell of stat nerds who think he was one of the best pitchers ever (despite his having a middling career that was more about longevity and accumulation rather than achievement) has officially reached a crescendo.
He pitched 22 seasons but only ever received Cy Young votes in 4 seasons. That means, on a season to season basis his name came only even came into the conversation of being one of the game’s best 4 times in 22 seasons. Even more of an indictment, he only made 2 all star teams in his career! How can someone be considered one of the best who ever played the game if he was rarely even considered one of the best 25-30 players on a year to year basis? The reason the lack of all star appearances matters is because it is as good of an indicator of his stature within the game as exists. Jack Morris was the STARTER in several all star games, was a top-5 cy young candidate over and again, and was perceived to be among the best pitchers of his decade. Blyleven was always just considered to be a decent pitcher with a great curveball.
He never led league in Wins or Era. Only once he led in ERA+ and one other time Whip. Lots of Blyleven apologists discount the Wins (obviously) since they’re a team stat, but nobody points that out when looking at Steve Carlton‘s 27-10 record for the god-awful 1972 Phillies. They talk about how amazing a pitcher Carlton was; a Hall of Famer. But when Blyleven pitched year after year and only reached 20 wins once; that was all his teams’ fault.
The big stat-nerd argument for Blyleven is his career Strikeouts, yet he only ever led the league in Ks once despite having 3700 for his career. Blyleven accumulated exactly 3701 Ks in 4970 innings. That’s a K/9 of only 6.7. And in the one year he led the league in Ks, he averaged 6.3 K/9. That’s only slightly better than the Nat’s own Craig Stammen‘s 2010 totals, by way of comparison. Just because someone pitches a gazillion innings and accumulates a ton of Ks doesn’t mean he’s one of the all time best. 3701 Ks in 4900 innings means a career 6.7 K/9 rate. That’s mediocre!
Go look up where his K/9 ranks in the all time list on baseball reference. He’s just ahead of Doug Davis and just behind Barry Zito. Yeah, that’s hall of fame company.
Blyleven is the epitome of an “accumulator.” He played long enough to accumulate stats that reached one of the magical baseball marks (500 homers, 3000 hits, 3000 Ks, 300 wins) that some sportswriters seem to think indicate automatic inclusion to the Hall. However, I offer the comparison of Jamie Moyer. Moyer sits at 267 career wins and wants to keep playing. It is not inconceivable that he returns from injury and gets a few more career wins. Now ask yourself a hypothetical question; if Moyer had 300 wins, would he be a hall of fame pitcher? I would hope your answer would be “absolutely not.” He just pitched long enough to reach the magical threshold number.
All this hype about Blyleven is sabre-matrician stat nerd revisionist history hoopla who pay ZERO attention to what actually happened on the field during his era and just look at stats. Well, the game isn’t played in the stat books; its played on the field. And on the field Morris was far superior to Blyleven, and on the field Blyleven belongs in the hall of “good,” not the hall of fame.
I have never understood the fanatical desire of the modern blogger to get Blyleven into the hall of fame. In my book he’s not a Hall of Famer now, he has never been, and I think he’ll immediately be the most mediocre player in the hall when inevitably he earns his spot this year.