Baseball. It is the American game. Baseball is not only America’s pastime, but also 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 has 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 will both use numbers to support their arguments. Some might argue that numbers can be misleading because not all players played in the same era. While that is true, I shall present numbers that 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? It will prove that the voters – for whatever unexplained reason(s) – aren’t as thorough in their research as we would like to believe. The numbers I present will prove what an injustice it is to see Bert Blyleven toil in Hall of Fame uncertainty for so many years while others are already enshrined in Cooperstown. How will I prove that Blyleven is Hall-worthy? Simple: I shall compare his numbers to those of a sure-fire 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. Looking at those years, we can surely agree that 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.
Rather than show a chart or a table, I will show each stat individually, so that you may see how they compare to one another in each individual stat and pay close attention to the numbers. If I showed just one chart with all the numbers, some might just only have a quick glance and do selective viewing. I will have none of that! Each stat will be provided individually with Blyleven and Ryan’s names side-by-side. After reading the numbers, maybe then people will finally realize just how good Blyleven truly was.
Obviously, 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 factor in winning percentage as well. 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. Some pitchers seem to defy what team they play for and just win anyway. For instance, Roy Halladay has won roughly 66% of his career games thus far, despite playing his entire career with the mediocre Toronto Blue Jays.
I just merely presented the wins and winning percentage of these two pitchers so that I may 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 already 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 so 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 even 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 status of Johnson or Maddux, then they shouldn’t affect that of Blyleven or any other pitcher.
Finally, my favorite pitching stat! I have always been a huge 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 have presented have clearly shown that 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 eerily similar numbers in their careers.
So 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? 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.
What I do know, however, is that when you look at Blyleven’s numbers objectively, he is very much 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 post-playing 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.