Starting pitchers and the Hall of Fame
Did you realize there are no starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame that debuted after 1967? Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Catfish Hunter…they all started their careers in the 1960s. If Bert Blyleven makes it this year (which he should), then he would be the newest starter in the Hall by debut date…1970. The only other starting pitchers who have received more than 5% of the vote in recent years are Jack Morris and Tommy John (who started in 1963). John’s last year of eligibility was 2009, while Morris received 50% support last year for the first time in 11 years on the ballot. By comparison, Blyleven climbed to 50% by his ninth year on the ballot.
Recent pitchers who have appeared on the ballot include Dwight Gooden, Mark Langston, Bret Saberhagen, David Cone, Todd Stottlemyre, Jose Rijo, and Chuck Finley. None of them received enough votes to stay on the ballot a second year. I was a little surprised that Cone didn’t get more support (21 votes for 3.9%), but I never expected him to get in either. Even Orel Hershiser, who won 204 games, only lasted two years on the ballot (dropping from 11.2% in 2006 to 4.4% in 2007). That’s better than 245-game winner Dennis Martinez, who was one-and-done with 3.2% in 2004.
In 2011, only a few starters will be on the ballot for the first time, the most interesting being Kevin Brown. Brown won 211 games in his career, but was named in the Mitchell Report. If McGwire–who was perceived as a shoo-in for Cooperstown before the steroid scandal–only receives 25% of the vote, then I see a possibility of one-and-done for a borderline candidate like Brown. The only other pitcher with more than 150 wins on the 2011 ballot is Al Leiter, but despite his consistency I don’t expect him to receive much support for the Hall of Fame.
200-game winners on the ballot down the road…
2013: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, David Wells
2014: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Kenny Rogers
2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz
Of those, I expect six (maybe seven) to get inducted. The earliest debut of those six is Maddux in 1986. If Blyleven gets in, and Morris doesn’t, that still leaves a 16-year gap of no new starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame.
Does this seem strange to anyone else?
* Addendum…completely slipping my mind when I wrote this post was Dennis Eckersley, who began his major league career in 1975. Though he never would have made it to Cooperstown had he not moved to the bullpen and dominated in the late 1980s with Oakland, the first half of his career as a starting pitcher wasn’t a total wash: 151 W-128 L, 3.67 ERA, 111 ERA+, and 42.1 WAR.