Monday, November 23, 2009

How Zack and Tim can help Bert

Bert Blyleven must be positively giddy about how the Cy Young Awards panned out this year. Let me explain.

The Cy Young used to be kind of simple to figure out… a bunch of old writers would look at which pitchers won the most games and handed him the award.

Never mind that Bob Welch wasn’t even the #1 starter on his own team in 1990 (any sane person on the Planet Earth knew that Dave Stewart was the ace of the A’s). Never mind that Roger Clemens’ stats dwarfed Bob Welch’s without his lineup nor bullpen. Welch won more games… and that is that.

Never mind that in 1987 Nolan Ryan led the league in strikeouts and ERA. He had the best strikeout to walk ratio and gave up the fewest hits per 9 innings and was among the league leaders in WHIP and innings pitched that year. He finished 5th in the Cy Young voting because he had a losing record… all the while pitching for an Astros team that had a horrifically bad offense.

Wins were king.

Now I am not of the belief that wins are meaningless. If you pitch well enough to let your team win the game, then in essence you’ve done your job.

But a win could go to an undeserving pitcher. When Curt Schilling dominated the Braves in the 1993 NLCS he didn’t record a win. Instead Mitch Williams blew the lead in Games 1 and 5… and when the Phillies took the lead afterwards, it was Williams who got the win.

Anyone casually looking over the stats would see Mitch Williams went 2-0 and Curt Schilling went 0-0.

Now who had a better series?

The guy with the 1.69 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 16 innings?

Or the guy who blew two saves and let up 6 hits and 2 walks over 5 1/3 innings pitched?

And losses aren’t always the best barometer of a bad outing. Remember Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings before letting up a pair of hits and a run during his masterpiece in 1959. He got the loss.

But finally writers are looking beyond just the win total to see who had the best year. Wins are important to be sure… but so is determining how a pitcher actually pitched! Did he let up few runs? Did batters have trouble getting on base against him? Did he strikeout more than he walked?

It requires looking at more than one column but it also means that a pitcher’s whole performance will be taken into account… not just the games where the team’s lineup scored him enough runs or the bullpen closed out enough games.

There is absolutely no way Zack Greinke nor Tim Linecum would have won the Cy Young 5 or 10 years ago.

Their win total would have been considered to be too low and probably CC Sabathia or Felix Hernandez would have some hardware in the AL and Adam Wainwright would be the Cy Young winner in the NL.

So what the hell does this have to do with Bert Blyleven?

Well Bert is once again up for the Hall of Fame… and hopefully the support for his candidacy is growing.

And the only thing keeping this no brainer Hall of Famer out of Cooperstown is the fact that he has 287 wins instead of 300.

5th in Strikeouts all time… 9th in shutouts all time… Cy Young Candidate over a 16 year span… clinched a pennant for the Pirates in 1979 with a complete game and saved the World Series with a gutsy 4 inning relief appearance… then helped pitch the Twins to the 1987 World Series title…

But 13 wins short of 300, and sits on the outside of Cooperstown looking in.

As I wrote in my Bert Blyeven post last winter, he had scores of games where he was a hard luck loser for some subpar teams over 22 seasons that maybe those 13 games could be forgiven.

Well Hall of Fame voters can be swayed.

I believe Jim Rice made the Hall of Fame because of the steroid issue. His home run total looked more impressive since his body never changed shape dramatically from 1975 to 1989.

Suddenly the same people who kept harping on about his walks and not reaching 400 homers realized that being an MVP candidate for more than a decade should amount to something.

And for Jim Ed Rice it amounted to a plaque in Cooperstown.

Now the same writers need to look at Blyleven’s career the way that Cy Young voters looked at Greinke and Lincecum.

All that is at stake is a little immortality.

1 comment:

  1. I respectfully dissent. Today's pitchers are told to go 6 innings. Since the game is decided in 9 innins, they often lose out on decisions(wins and losses) that go to the bullpen crapping out a lead on one side or the other. I don't know if that's why Lincecum and Greinke's win totals were lower, but Blyleven was of the generation when you hung in there and pitched 8 or 9 innings as long as your arm was still connected.

    I know the folks that have gone through and found 13-25 games that Blyleven could have won with more support, bullpen hadn't blown it, etc. I'm still not convinced that Bert Blyleven, outstanding pitcher that he was, is to be recognized among the absolute elite cream of the crop to have played baseball.