Revisiting the Hall of Fame case for the unappreciated Bert Blyleven
Blyleven has more shutouts than every pitcher of his era except Seaver and Ryan
He is one of only 27 pitchers in history to throw 4,000 innings in the big leagues
But he fell 13 victories short of 300 and never won a Cy Young Award
Some people seem to think that because I am now focusing so much attention on Tim Raines that I have in some way forgotten about my outrage over Bert Blyleven still not being in the Hall of Fame. Well, I have not.
I realize that the game has changed a lot since Blyleven's day. Still... did you know: That Bert Blyleven has more shutouts than:
Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Combined.
He also has more shutouts than every single pitcher of his era except Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, Hall of Famers who each have exactly ONE more shutout than Bert Blyleven.
Bret Saberhagen -- 126
What makes this interesting... well there are a couple of things. One, it points out that Blyleven has a better ERA+ than three 300-game winners -- Niekro, Ryan and Sutton. In truth, he has as good or a better career ERA+ as eight of the 17 300-game winners since 1901. His ERA+ is also better than those of Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton among Hall of Fame contemporaries.
But the larger point seems to be that those three former Royals -- Sabes, Appier and Cone -- have better ERA+ than any of them. And so they do. But, of course, there's a pretty substantial point to be made there. None of those three pitched as many innings as Blyleven (or Niekro, Ryan, Sutton, etc.). And in fact, none of them came CLOSE to pitching as many innings as Blyleven.
Sabes pitched 2,562 innings.
Blyleven, as you probably know, pitched 4,970 innings -- about 2,000 more innings than Cone and about 2,500 more than Appier. He basically pitched as many innings as Saberhagen and Appier combined.
And the simple fact is that Blyleven, through 2,500 or so innings, had a better ERA+ than anyone on that list.
Through 2,500 (or so) innings:
Bert Blyleven: 131 ERA+
And for that matter ...
Greg Maddux: 143
Of course, Blyleven (like Niekro, Ryan and Sutton) had a whole second career. There have been only 27 pitchers in baseball history sturdy enough to throw 4,000 innings in the big leagues. Only eight of them are not in the Hall of Fame, and four of those -- Johnson, Clemens, Maddux and Glavine -- will be soon*. So these are some of the best ever. And when you compare Bert Blyleven to every pitcher in baseball history who threw 4,000 innings, his 118 ERA+ ties him for 10th overall. Every other pitcher who threw 4,000 innings with an ERA+ of better than 110 is in or going to the Hall of Fame.
*Barring a steroid backlash against Clemens.
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