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Bruce Sutter and the Hall of Fame – Another Look

It’s looking like Bruce Sutter’s election into the Hall of Fame could be the most controversial since former Tiger George Kell’s induction in 1983. I think the whole Goose Gossage/Bruce Sutter thing has been beaten to death, including by myself, so lets go off on a tangent with this comparison.

(Sorry, I played with the spacing but couldn’t quite get this to work).

            Player 1   Player 2

Games            545        661

IP            1,242      1,042.3

Runs             438        370

ER              391        328

BB              535        309

SO             1,036        861

ERA            2.83       2.83

RSAA             136        123

HR              110         77

H/9            7.54       7.59

BR/9           11.50     10.37 

SO/9            7.51       7.43

BB/9            3.88       2.67

SO/BB            1.94      2.79

Wins             87         68

Losses          76         71

Neutral W        105         86 

Neutral L       58         53

PRAR             531        507

DERA           3.42       3.52

Saves           125        300

Okay, that’s a lot of numbers. What’s interesting is both players have idential ERA’s. Pitcher number 1 threw more innings but gave up about one more walk per inning then player two. Player one gave up more homeruns but both had very good rates per nine innings (player 1 0.797 vs player 2 0.665). All in all, if you look at both the raw numbers and the rate numbers, these players are pretty similar.

The big difference is in saves. Player 2 played in a era when saves were the thing, while Player 1 started his career in the mid-60s when the save didn’t yet exist. But it’s worth noting that while Player 1 only racked up 125 saves, he held the single season save record (38) for ten years until Dan Quisenberry broke it in 1983 with 45. Player 2 then tied Quisenberry’s record until it was broken a year later by Dave Righetti.

Player 1 is also credited with having the best relief season in the history of baseball. This is documented in both The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract and Baseball Prospectus 2006. A year after that historic season, Player 1 won a record (that still stands) 17 games in relief. Player 2 has the 16th and 19th best relief seasons according to Baseball Prospectus 2006.

Player 2 is easy because his numbers have been thrown around so much of late. Player 1 is John Hiller who in his first year on the ballot for the Hall of Fame in 1986, received 11 votes or 2.59% and never showed up on the ballot again.

So while I’m not surprised Sutter got in, it’s make you wonder what these voters are thinking. The good news is, it bodes well for Bert Blyleven. It took Sutter nine years to break through the 50% mark and three years later he’s in. So I’m hoping we’ll be praising the BWAA at this time in 2008 for finally voting Blyleven in.

And John Hiller is one of my favorite Tigers and is a great case study because he was one of the last great relief pitchers in the era before the save became popular. Back in 2003, I took a look at John Hiller’s 1973 season along with a little editorial on my thoughts on the save. This was one of my first posts when I started the site and it’s interesting (for me, probablly not for you) going back and looking at how my writing has changed since then.

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