Update-With yesterday’s HOF selections, I thought it would be a good time to update this piece. The most common argument I encountered with people who don’t think ‘The Quiz’ belongs was he just didn’t do it long enough. I would invite them to compare his innings pitched (1043.1 IP) with that of a sure-fire 1st ballot HOFer in Trevor Hoffman (1089.1 IP) who recently retired. Part of Hoffman’s Hall case will be his longevity, and it’s important to remember how different the Closer’s role was during the 70s and 80s when Quisenberry pitched. As Mo and I discussed in the comments below, we’re dealing with an evolving standard when it comes to relievers. So far, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter have set the bar, and Dan Quisenberry (24.3 Career WAR) fits in nicely with both of them, particularly Sutter (25.0 Career WAR).
Original post-For the second installment of our “The Case for Cooperstown” series, I’d like to introduce you to a pitcher that has been passed over for HOF consideration. For a 6 year period from 1980-1985 Dan Quisenberry was the most dominant reliever in the American League. He wasn’t a hard thrower, he had a submarine style that he modeled after Kent Tekulve’s success as the closer of the World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates teams of the mid-late 1970’s. He threw a sinking Fastball, Curveball and Change up, all with pinpoint control. His ability to throw strikes and induce ground balls was the key to his success, along with the deception that came with his underhand delivery. He won the Rolaids Relief Award every year from 1980-1985, with the only exception being the 1981 strike season. His career walk rates at the time he retired were the lowest of any pitcher in the modern era and still are to this day. His 45 saves in 1983 was at the time a single season record, which was tied the following year by Bruce Sutter and broken in 1986 by Dave Righetti. He was also the first pitcher in MLB history to save more than 40 games twice in his career.
In an era when ‘Relief Aces’ of the 1970s and early 80s that featured Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage later morphed into the ‘Closer’ role we know today, Dan Quisenberry was one of the top pitchers of that prior generation. While the modern Closer often gets a clean inning in which to face the bottom of a lineup, these Relief Aces were typically called upon in the 7th and 8th inning, with men on base, facing the heart of the opposing lineup. That’s why you can’t compare them to modern Closers and their Save records. Their job was much different, and frankly much more difficult. Check out what was probably his best season, his 1983 campaign.
ERA-1.94 W-5 L-3 G-69 IP-139.0 H-118 ER-30 BB-11 SO-48 ERA+210 WHIP-0.928
My criteria for the Hall of Fame is simple and pragmatic. Write me a plaque for the player that will be sufficiently impressive to put him in a place that houses the likes of Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Tom Seaver and Tony Gywnn. Not that the player has to be as good as those all time greats, but if you can put him in this picture without laughing, then we have something to discuss.
With that in mind, here’s my Hall of Fame plaque for him:
Led the American League in saves a record five times (1980, 1982-85)
Retired in 1990 with 244 saves, then the 6th-highest total in history
Tied (w/Walter Johnson) for 5th all time in ERA+
20th all time in Walks/9IP (Lowest rate since 1926)
Whether or not you agree with my selection, I hope I’ve made the case that he deserves further consideration by the Veteran’s Committee. He fell off the ballot at a time when relievers weren’t given much consideration by HOF voters, but now that they are getting in, he stacks up well with recent Closer inductees. His numbers are remarkably similar to that of Bruce Sutter, who was elected in 2006. He outperformed 2008 HOF inductee Goose Gossage annually during the prime of both of their careers from 1980-1985 and was used in a similar fashion. While he didn’t have quite as much longevity as Goose, his peak was in some areas better. Dan Quisenberry is a Hall of Famer to me.