January 6, 2011

Bert Blyleven, A Great Hall of Famer

Great news yesterday. In his 14th year of eligibility, former Pirates pitcher and 1979 World Champion Bert Blyleven is a Hall of Famer.

This is one of many sites that championed Blyleven's candidacy. Even though few or no voters read my posts, similar posts on hundreds of sites add up. Blyleven's vote percentages mirrored the sheer number of sites like this one, increasing from 14% in 1999 to 80% in 2000. Mainstream media analysis has evolved from silly throwaway excuses such as "he didn't feel like a Hall of Famer when he was playing" to a real analysis of the player's qualifications. And Blyleven's are superb: 287 wins, a 3.31 ERA, 242 complete games, 3701 strikeouts (ninth all time) - all accomplished with what was probably the most devastating curveball of all time.

The erstwhile ace of the 1979 World Champions, Blyleven won two games that postseason and allowed only three runs in 19 innings. As he did so many times that season, when he went 12-5 in 37 starts, he pitched brilliantly in a no decision in World Series Game 2, later won by Pittsburgh. Summoned from the bullpen a few days later, trailing 1-0 and facing elimination in Game 5, he shut down the powerful Orioles for four innings for the win.

Bert was seldom happy during his days in Pittsburgh from 1978 to 1980. He liked to pitch the entire game, and manager Chuck Tanner allowed him to complete only 20 of 103 starts during three seasons. Before and after his tenure, he had single years when he completed over 20.

Blyleven joins the hall of fame at least a decade too late. But the fact that he was so undervalued helped the teams he played for during his career, all of whom were able to acquire the righthander without giving fair value. He cost the Pirates good-but-not-great left fielder Al Oliver, but Oliver was the only player ever swapped for Bert Blyleven who was even remotely close in talent level. Sadly, Pittsburgh dumped him after the 1980 season for a collection of scrubs, none of whom lasted over a year here. He would win 131 more games in other uniforms.

Congratulations to Bert Blyleven on receiving baseball's highest honor.

Parker Falls Short
That 1979 Pirates team now boasts two Hall of Famers, with Willie Stargell joining Bert Blyleven. But neither was the best player on the team - that honor belonged to Dave Parker, a true five tool talent who was pretty clearly the best player in the league from 1975 to 1979. During his five year peak, Baseball Reference figures that Parker was worth 30.1 wins to his teams. Yet he could muster only 15% of the votes in this, his final year on the ballot.

Parker was merely good for most of the rest of his career (six more 90 RBI seasons after he left Pittsburgh). He had 2,712 career hits; would have had 3,000 if he had become an everyday player in 1973 rather than being blocked for two years by baseball's best lineup. The voters saw fit to elect Jim Rice - the exact same hitter as Parker only for a shorter career, at an easier position, without any of Parker's Gold Gloves. Unfortunately, Parker may never make the Hall. If he does it will be as an old man, inducted via seemingly random decisions of the Veterans Committee.

Mondesi Shut Out
And of course, great former Pirates Raul Mondesi and Benito Santiago received one vote total, that vote going to Santiago. You can't win 'em all.

No comments:

Post a Comment