Posted: Tuesday January 10, 2006 4:23PM; Updated: Wednesday January 11, 2006 3:02PM
Batting Avg. Against
Sutter was helped in the voting process by the "aura" assigned to him by the splitter. He was often called "unhittable," which is a gross exaggeration. Consider how batters fared against Gossage as compared to Sutter. Remember, Gossage pitched most of his career in the AL, with the DH, and Sutter never faced a DH. Gossage also pitched until he was 43, long trying to get by without his best heater. And yet look who was the tougher pitcher to hit, as defined by opponents' batting average and walks plus hits per inning pitched (see chart, right).
Also, consider their relative ERAs (essentially, their ERAs compared to their league's ERA, factoring in home park). Gossage posted nine seasons with an adjusted-ERA+ better than 150; Sutter had just three.
Gossage will get into the Hall of Fame -- if not next year, then surely in 2008. He compares too favorably to Sutter and is too close to the 75 percent magic threshold (64.6) not to make up the ground. But Sutter's enshrinement has other repercussions, though they are too late for the specialists who toiled in the 1980s and have dropped from the ballot. For instance, check out how Tom Henke and Dan Quisenberry compare to the newest Hall of Famer:
It's fairly close. Yet Quisenberry was booted from the ballot after one year, receiving only 18 votes. And Henke was gone after one year as well, drawing only six votes.
Okay, final stats don't always tell a complete story, which is why Kirby Puckett is a Hall of Famer and Don Mattingly is not, even though they are nearly statistical doppelgangers.
Want more comparisons? Look for dominant seasons. Try these categories: years with top five Cy Young Award finishes, years leading the league in saves, years with an ERA better than league average and years with adjusted-ERA+ better than 150:
Top 5 Cy
It's too late for Quisenberry and Henke. But as the election of Tony Perez helped open the door to a raft of first basemen (Fred McGriff, Jeff Bagwell, Carlos Delgado, Todd Helton, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire are among those who prosper from the statistical comparison alone), the entry of Sutter will reverberate long after Gossage gets in.
It's now about Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, Eric Gagne, Jason Isringhausen, Mariano Rivera (who's in already) and the modern specialist. Eight hundred good innings. That's all it takes to get into the Hall of Fame. Being thought of as the father of a pitch doesn't hurt, either.