26 August 2002

Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm died yesterday, at the age of 79 or so. He was the first (primarily) relief pitcher elected to the Hall, and first knuckleballer (I think). Rollie Fingers and Phil Niekro have both followed Wilhelm into the Hall since, respectively, in those categories. This brings up the following comparison:

______W - L__ SV__IP____H __SO_ERA
Rollie 114-118 341 1701.3 1474 1299 2.90
Goose 124-107 310 1809.3 1497 1502 3.01

Why isn't Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame? Frankly Pony, that one's kind of obvious, isn't it? The real question is why isn't Goose Gossage in the Hall of Fame? He had fewer saves than Rollie, but more than 20 games difference in their won/lost records (+10 wins, -11 losses). He pitched more innings, allowed fewer hits, struck out batters more often, allowed homers less often, and had a slightly lower adjusted ERA (relative to the league) for his career. Goose was on nine All-Star teams to Fingers' seven. Both led their league in saves 3 times, finished among the top 10 in the MVP voting twice (Fingers won it, with the Cy Young, in 1981). Fingers was among the top ten in Cy Young voting four times to Goose's 5 times. Rollie did win four Rolaids Relief awards to Goose's one, but this is a kind of contrived award anyway, based simply on statistics rather than value, and statistics that can be manipulated, no less.

I think that there are probably two main reasons that Goose is not yet in the Hall. Rob Neyer has argued that in the time it took Rollie Fingers to retire and then to be elected to the HoF, the status of the Save, as a statistic, changed. People like Tony LaRussa started using pitchers like Dennis Eckersly and Lee Smith specifically for the purpose of getting saves, and pretty soon, Goose's 310 didn't look so impressive anymore. Lee Smith (478), John Franco (422), Dennis Eckersley (390), Jeff Reardon (367) Randy Myers (347), Trevor Hoffman (346), John Wetteland (330), Roberto Hernandez (318), Rick Aguilera (318), Tom Henke (311), Jeff Montgomery (304), Doug Jones (303), Bruce Sutter (300), and Robb Nen (302) all have 300 or more saves now, and I guess it just looks bad to elect a guy who has only eight more saves than Doug Jones.

Rollie and Goose were approximately contemporaries, with mostly overlapping careers, though Fingers ('68-'85) started sooner and retired sooner than Gossage ('72-94), but if Goose had retired two years earlier, he would have had a 2.93 ERA instead of 3.01, and the memory of him as one of the premier stoppers would have been fresher in the voters' minds when voting time arrived. Instead, he stayed a little longer than some of the BBWAA might have liked, pitching into his 22nd season, and still effectively I might add, with an ERA below the league average when the strike hit in 1994. I guess these guys want their favorites to ride off into the sunset as soon as their skills begin to diminish a little, that if you can't be The Stopper you should just Stop. It's ironic that the same men who don't elect people like Ron Guidry for not pitching long enough also punish people like Gossage and Bert Blyleven for pitching so long.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: