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Here at TYU, we like to branch out of the Yankee realm every so often and bring you content relating to the non-Yankee teams in baseball. This series, which we’re calling the Case for Cooperstown Series, will deal with some non-Yankees and, obviously, their cases for Cooperstown.

I’m leading off here with everyone’s favorite HOF case, Bert Blyleven. I have a good feeling that I’ll be preaching to the choir when I say this, but Bert Blyleven should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bert owns a career 287-250 record (more on this in a bit), a 3.31 ERA (118 ERA+), a 1.198 WHIP, a 2.80 K/BB, and a 3.19 FIP. These are very good numbers. In more terms of counting stats, he’s got 3,701 strikeouts, fifth most in the history of the game. He has the 14th most innings pitched in history (4,970) and the 9th most shutouts in history (60). It’s worth noting that he gave up the 8th most homers ever (430), but he still overcame that to have a good FIP; that’s what a lot of strikeouts and not too many walks will do for you.

In terms of pitcher WAR, Bert is 13th all time. He is the only eligible pitcher in the top 25 not currently in the Hall of Fame (Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, and Pedro Martinez are obviously not eligible yet). So, basically, Blyleven was more valuable that almost each HOF pitcher in baseball. This sort of longevity is remarkable and should be rewarded.

Now, a lot of people think that longevity allowed Blyleven to “compile” his stats. That is, he was just okay for a long period of time, so his numbers look better than they really are. Let’s look more deeply into that…

Category/Times finished in the top ten:
ERA: 10
ERA+: 12
WHIP: 11
IP: 11
K/9: 14
K: 15
K/BB: 16

So, for the majority of his career, Blyleven was a top pitcher in his league. Now, he also appeared in the top ten for losses a handful of times. Let’s look at this years…

In 1971-4 and 1976, Blyelven had between 15-17 losses each year, despite ERAs under three. His ERA+ numbers in those years: 126, 119, 158 (led league), 142, 125 (116 w/Min, 131 w/Tex). His FIPs those years? 2.51, 2.63, 2.32, 2.37, 2.71. It’s clear that Blyelven was doing his part, but he wasn’t getting much support. In those seasons of 15+ losses with ERAs under three, Bert’s average run support was 3.64. His career run support was 3.77. That’s not a lot of support. At all. Want more proof? Rich Lederer, please:

Rich Lederer, a baseball analyst and historian, studied Blyleven’s career and estimates that if he had received even league-average run support, his record would be closer to 313-224 than his 287-250.

Blyleven was victimized by some pretty bad teams and if he’d even had just league average offensive production from those guys behind him, he’d've had a bunch more wins. That “magic” 300, or lack thereof, is getting in his way and it’s pretty unfair. As you can see by his numbers, mainly his ERA+ and FIP numbers, Blyleven did what he could to help his teams win. But, as in every sport, one man can only carry a team so far.

Blyleven pitched a lot of innings as a great pitcher. Those things should get you into the Hall of Fame. Bert Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame.

6 Responses to “The Case for Cooperstown: Bert Blyleven”

  1. No Bert in HOF= Baseball writers are idiots, PERIOD.  (Quote)

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  2. How about Bert goes in and Jim Rice comes out?  (Quote)

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    Kevin Ocala, Fl Reply:

    Here, here! Motion accepted  (Quote)

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  3. OK Matt, you’ve convinced me. The WAR really put me over the top, I had no idea he was that high all time. My objection was to the stuff like his career WHIP (129th all time) ERA+ (144th all time) and SO/K rate (52nd all time). Those numbers all look weak to me, as does his BB/9IP (235th all time). When you bring up stats like that, it falls far short for me.

    I asked you to put together a plaque, one that will be impressive enough to induct someone into the HOF. I’m not sure the Hall is ready for WAR quite yet (hopefully they will be one day) but here it is-

    Bert Blyleven
    Won 287 Games
    5th all time in Strikeouts at retirement with 3,701
    and 9th all time in Shutouts with 60
    (and if it doesn’t freak too many people out)
    13th best All-time in WAR.

    That’s a decent plaque, one that will fit in nicely.  (Quote)

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  4. It’s a shame you even have to write this. When I built a team (http://tinyurl.com/26f2hgq) of HOF rejects compared to actual Hall of Famers, I was stunned at how much better Blyleven was than Catfish Hunter. 3x the career WAR. Even adjusting for the number of total innings, Blyleven’s WAR per 200 innings was twice that of Hunter’s. He’ll get in, but it shouldn’t have taken so damn long.  (Quote)

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