FanDuel - WFBC

January 10, 2006

Sutter in, everyone else out.: Looks like skydivepop was right. Only three pitchers previously elected to the Hall were known for their closing skills. But Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley all made numerous starts during their illustrious careers. Sutter never started a game, but he finished 512 of them to record 300 saves, the 19th most in history.

posted by HATER 187 to baseball at 02:33 PM - 31 comments

I hadn't looked at skydivedad's column since this morning so I guess it ain't really news to y'all. Day late, buck short, story of my life. I was shocked to see that there never was a true reliever elected to the hall. It is afterall arguably the most important position in baseball.

posted by HATER 187 at 02:37 PM on January 10

Sutter played for my beloved Cubs, so I say this with whole-heartness. There are several relievers who should be considered for the Hall of Fame, but I believe that Sutter should not have been a first choice at all. Dennis Eckersley is and was the greatest reliever of all time for a couple reasons...He went from a great starter for many years to a great reliever for many more years. When with the Cubs, he was still starting and on his way out as such. If the Cubs would have been smart enough to try something new and unconventional with him, who knows where that may have taken them. Tony Larussa {does spelling count?} was smart to try this and what a new career We were able to see take place for Eck. Sutter should go to the hall, but not before Eckersley by no means. Anyway, I wish him congrats on his honor and I will be watching the ceremony.

posted by melcarek69 at 03:01 PM on January 10

We (the Cardinals) had Eckersley toward the end of his career and he was considerable less than great. He was best known around here as "upperdeck Ek). Enough said.

posted by rchugh at 03:10 PM on January 10

It is afterall arguably the most important position in baseball. I don't think there is anyway that you can say a relief pitcher plays the most important position in baseball. If it's arguably anything, it's the least important position in baseball. The equivalent of a punter or kicker.

posted by panoptican at 03:28 PM on January 10

but not before Eckersley by no means melcarek69 Eckersley was inducted into the HOF in 2004. Mostly on the basis of his multi-tasking. As a reliever he never pitched in more than 80 innings a season mostly never close to that, Sutter pitched 90-100+ innings most of his career. Sutter pioneered the position for Eckersley and all the ultra-modern relievers of today.

posted by skydivedad at 03:28 PM on January 10

Eckersley got in, and he deserves it. If Eckersley got in, I see no reason to why Sutter should not be in.

posted by Joe88 at 03:38 PM on January 10

Sutter should definitely be in - he's a pioneer that really elevated and defined the closer's role. Eckersley was outstanding and also deserved to be elected into the Hall.

posted by ChiSox1977 at 03:50 PM on January 10

"Let's see some other motherfucker do that." --Dennis Eckersley after finishing a season with more strikeouts than hits and walks combined.

posted by yerfatma at 05:22 PM on January 10

Congrats to Bruce, he was somewhat of a pioneer. He was a closer when a closer actually worked for a paycheck and when the position of closer actually meant something! Well deserved!

posted by LiveWithIt at 06:17 PM on January 10

I was mad as hell when Sutter left the Cards to go to the Braves, but I am happy he is going into the hall. One of the true innovators in sport with the split-fingered fastball. I will look forward to seeing what team he will represent. I'm hoping it's the Cardinals, but I would understand if it's the Cubs. Either way, Bruce Sutter is finally where he belongs, Cooperstown!

posted by Steeler_Fan at 09:01 PM on January 10

We will know the uniform choice tomorrow 12PM EST when he is introduced at the News Conference in New York

posted by skydivedad at 09:03 PM on January 10

Congrats to Sutter, and to skydivedad for not only projecting his election, but also providing top-notch information on the HOF process, particularly regarding the team affiliation of electees. Great work! In my opinion, Sutter's election is indicitive of a rapid fire evolution on the part of the writers toward consideration of closers as HOF material. Despite the elections of Wilhelm and Fingers, there still seemed to be a pervasive attitude, reflected in the voting, that the standards being set for closers was darn near unreachable. Now, you can argue that that SHOULD be the HOF standard, but then you've got this problem of a list of guys -- I don't think I have to name them -- from every other position who certainly aren't keeping up THAT standard. (And, while I'm at it, when making an argument for a player's HOF candidacy, it is a very dangerous practice to compare numbers with players who are already in. Players get in for all sorts of reasons, some of which have little or nothing to do with raw stats, which makes a flat comparitive statistical analysis totally unfair and impractical. The Clemente/Oliver argument from the other post is a great example.) Don't get me wrong -- I don't see Sutter as bringing down the Hall's standards at all, but broadening the scope and making it an inclusive process for a whole collection of pitchers who otherwise would not be considered. I believe Sutter's election will be seen as a substantial event when today's closers start appearing on the ballot in the future. I don't think it makes a difference for a guy like Mariano Rivera, but it certainly greases the skids a little for Trevor Hoffman and a lot for Billy Wagner, Troy Percival, John Franco, John Wetteland, even Robb Nen or Roberto Hernandez. I'm not saying all of these guys are locks to get in now, but a lot of them weren't going anywhere before Sutter got in. Looks like Sutter finds himself a pioneer once again... And, to the individual who said that the closer was arguably the "least important position in baseball" -- well, anything is arguable, but that is not a position I would want to take up in a argument with, off the top of my head, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, Grady Little, Bruce Bochy... just to name a few. I know "least important" is not equal to "unimportant," but I would sure rather have a great closer and a crummy utility infielder than the other way around. Of course, neither of those are "positions." They are "roles." But I think that was the spirit of the argument.

posted by BullpenPro at 10:25 PM on January 10

hey, you mean Bert Blyleaven didn't make it again !

posted by INOALOSER at 10:26 PM on January 10

I think he deserves it, but I'll always see him as more of an exception/pioneer type of Hall of Famer. He popularized and perfected the spliltter, defined the modern closer role (without being a modern short-inning closer) and had good numbers - Hell, he should have gone in as a builder.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:46 PM on January 10

"Let's see some other motherfucker do that." --Dennis Eckersley after finishing a season with more strikeouts than hits and walks combined. Just for the sake of fun, I decided to look up how many times that's happened. With a minimum of 50IP in a season (which is the cutoff point for a closer nowadays), 113 different pitchers have done it a combined 236 times. The top 5 pitchers (based on number of times performing this feat):

Randy Johnson 11 Billy Wagner 8 Pedro Martinez 7 Trevor Hoffman 7 Troy Percival 6 Curt Schilling 5 Nolan Ryan 5 Dennis Eckersley 5 Ugueth Urbina 5 Armando Benitez 5
The biggest difference (K - (BB+H)) goes to Pedro Martinez in 2000. 284 K, 128 H, 32 BB for a difference of 124 (for more fun with stats, I recommend grabbing a free copy of the Lahman database, if you have MS Access on your computer)

posted by grum@work at 12:44 AM on January 11

Thanks, grum -- that is a great stat. Worth noting, too, that when Eckersley delivered the quote, Ryan HAD already done it. Also interesting is how heavily the list lists toward the last twenty years. No Gibson? No Koufax? No Big Train? No Feller? Lots of guys I would have guessed before I came up with that Top Ten list. No Sutter. No Gossage for that matter. This should cement Benitez's future induction...

posted by BullpenPro at 01:09 AM on January 11

grum@work Brilliant!

posted by skydivedad at 06:23 AM on January 11

Also interesting is how heavily the list lists toward the last twenty years. I don't have the list in front of me (work!) but I do remember seeing that it happened 3 times in the 1800s, then no one at all until the 1950s. However, there were a ridiculous number of pitchers pulling it off in the past 5 years. One season had something like 15 different pitchers! If I remember, I'll post the season-by-season numbers later tonight.

posted by grum@work at 07:58 AM on January 11

It would be interesting to normalize it for league-wide strikeout rates.

posted by yerfatma at 08:33 AM on January 11

Sutter going in wearing a Cards Cap.

posted by skydivedad at 12:25 PM on January 11

Why does Ozzie Smith make it, but Alan Trammel, who had the same stats and a world series, hasn't even got much consideration?

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 04:36 PM on January 11

Because Ozzie was quite possibly the best fielding shortstop of all time? I don't know.

posted by chicobangs at 06:24 PM on January 11

First pitcher to make it into the Hall with a losing career record. Not really accurate when talking about a closer, I realize, but something to think about.

posted by dyams at 07:44 PM on January 11

Ozzie won a World Series and appeared in three. Plus, what chicobangs said. Yet another example of why raw stat comparisons make for a dangerous argument. Sutter is the second HOFer with a losing record. Rollie Fingers. The Hall's decision to make the team designation their call rather than the inductees is a total win-win, and Sutter's case is a great example. Not only is the inductee not allowed to auction off his affiliation, he gets taken off the hook when he has a tough decision between multiple teams. I am sure Sutter was consulted and that his feeling was reflected in the final call, but because the call was "strictly the Hall of Fame's" he doesn't have to apologize to the Cubs or Braves or suffer any backlash from slighting them with his own decision.

posted by BullpenPro at 08:45 PM on January 11

Yet another example of why raw stat comparisons make for a dangerous argument. It's more of an example of why partial stat comparisons make for a dangerous argument. If you examine the raw fielding numbers, Smith comes out well ahead of Trammell.

posted by grum@work at 09:41 AM on January 12

Also interesting is how heavily the list lists toward the last twenty years. If I remember, I'll post the season-by-season numbers later tonight. It would be interesting to normalize it for league-wide strikeout rates. Okay, so I posted it the next day instead... Here is the decade by decade breakdown of K > BB+H pitcher seasons: 1880s - 3 1890s - 0 1900s - 0 1910s - 0 1920s - 0 1930s - 0 1940s - 0 1950s - 2 1960s - 15 1970s - 11 1980s - 31 1990s - 82 2000s - 92 (only half done) Here are the pitching strikeout totals for those decades: 1880s - 64845 1890s - 50148 1900s - 79410 1910s - 98898 1920s - 69326 1930s - 81683 1940s - 87759 1950s - 108863 1960s - 182438 1970s - 203741 1980s - 218147 1990s - 265539 2000s - 188427 (only half done) Maybe it is tied to overall strikeouts, but why the whitewash from 1890-1949? And why does it go DOWN in the 1970s when the strikeouts go UP? And the jump in the number of great pitching performances from 1980s to 1990s is FAR greater than the jump in strikeouts.

posted by grum@work at 10:00 AM on January 12

Are you controlling for a baseline of innings pitched? Also, can you paste in the query you're using? I was playing around with Lahman awhile back, but it took forever for me to connect tables in a meaningful way.

posted by yerfatma at 12:10 PM on January 12

Grum, I'm going to stand by my comment that raw stats don't tell the story. Granted, Ozzie's defensive stats are better than Trammell's, but that really isn't the reason Ozzie's in the Hall. Ozzie's in the Hall because defensively he was spectacular to watch. Someone else could put up Ozzie's numbers by playing consistently rock solid shortstop, and still not make the Hall. Ozzie had unbelievable flash and a tremendous presence on the field. Ryne Sandberg was a great defensive second baseman, maybe an even better fielder than Ozzie numerically, but he wasn't a first ballot HOFer because he didn't have Ozzie's sizzle. Another good test will be to see what happens when Omar Vizquel steps up to the ballot. His stats, I expect, will be quite comparable, but for some reason (and it's certainly not a lack of great plays) I don't put Vizquel in quite the same class as Ozzie. In my opinion, raw numbers never tell the complete story -- you really have to watch a guy play over a span of time to appreciate everything he brings onto the field. A serious analysis of any player's qualities has to begin and end at the ballpark. Ask a Jim Rice fan if his raw numbers tell the story well enough. Your statistical analysis here is another good example of how little numbers mean without knowing the backdrop/subtext. To answer some of your questions, I would guess that the number of expansion teams that showed up in the late '60s explains your '70s issue -- an increase in the sheer volume of innings pitched would account for the increase of strikeouts, while the watered-down pitching staffs wouldn't do much to help the number of K>H+BB. And I would say that the rise in "great pitching performances" from the '80s on serves as a great defense for the development of the one-inning closer, whom I would guess make up the bulk of those larger numbers. I don't have an answer to that 60-year dropout, though. Maybe an examination of the other half of the equation -- H+BB -- would help flesh it out.

posted by BullpenPro at 05:53 PM on January 12

Your statistical analysis here is another good example of how little numbers mean without knowing the backdrop/subtext. Except you can refine the numbers to tease out that subtext, which is what we were talking about.

posted by yerfatma at 07:15 AM on January 13

Also, can you paste in the query you're using? I was playing around with Lahman awhile back, but it took forever for me to connect tables in a meaningful way. I sent you an email with the queries. I'd post them here, but it would just be wasting space. Your statistical analysis here is another good example of how little numbers mean without knowing the backdrop/subtext. There wasn't any analysis. It was raw numbers. If I were to analyze them, I'd do more comparisons and queries to see how things look in the larger picture. I just provided data for people to look at. If someone wants to make a statement about the data, they can. You are probably right about the sub-100IP reliever making up the bulk of the performances, but I haven't broken it down yet so I didn't make the assumption. A serious analysis of any player's qualities has to begin and end at the ballpark. This is the classic "scouts vs stats" argument. I don't think you can do any serious analysis of a player without consulting his (or other players) statistics. Even if you watch a batter play an entire season, you still don't have a full idea of how good a hitter he is. - How are his hitting numbers in relation to the rest of the league (above average? similar to other hitters?)? - What is the quality of the league pitching (dominating AA pitching is different than hitting well against AAA pitching)? - What kind of ballpark does he play in (Coors vs Chavez Ravine)? None of these questions can possibly be answered without using statistics. So it requires an equal balance of "scouts" and "stats" to properly analyze a player's skill, and to say you can do it without either piece is silly. (caveat: if you can't get scouting information about a player (because they've been dead for 40 years), then relying on statistics to get an informed idea of his skills may be the only option left.)

posted by grum@work at 04:11 PM on January 13

This post has become old news, and I'm not sure anyone is checking in here anymore, but just in case I wanted to throw this in: First of all: "There wasn't any analysis. It was raw numbers." You're absolutely right. The way I laid it out made it sound like I was accusing you of drawing a conclusion AND, on top of that, that your conclusion was wrong. Neither of those is true, and I owe you an apology for implying such. What I meant, and should have said better, is that conclusions that could be construed as IMPLIED by the raw data (e.g. that pitchers got a whole lot better in the last 20 years) would certainly be incorrect -- the subtext explains the behavior of the numbers, and it's critical not to reverse that process. You never did that, but the comparison of Trammell to Ozzie DOES, in a way, do that. In short, grum and yerfatma are both correct, and I am not a numbers basher per se. I love playing with them myself, and I do see the value in them that grum described. However, we (baseball fans of the world) seem to be easily led down the slippery slope of statistical "analysis" that puts the cart before the horse and causes some of us to make comments like "Well, if Mazeroski belongs in the Hall, and he hit X, then..." I get sucked into that argument, too, and it's a hot button topic for me because, well, I'm not that smart and I'm easily beguiled with numbers. Trammell may belong in the Hall -- I'm rooting for him, in fact -- but he doesn't belong simply by virtue of having better stats than Ozzie or anyone else who is already there. "Even if you watch a batter play an entire season, you still don't have a full idea of how good a hitter he is." This is where I think you ARE incorrect. The questions that you pose all address issues with a player's statistics and how they can be deceiving, but not how watching a player can deceive you. Here is why, in my opinion, numbers are important. Raw numbers, taken in context, positioned with answers to the questions you have quite appropriately posed, have a very good likelihood of representing the player's true ability. It's not true with Ozzie, it's not true with Jeter, it's not true with Mazeroski -- on and on -- but it is true often enough to justify their use. Nobody gets to see every player every day, and as you correctly pointed out, nobody alive saw Dan Brouthers, so stats, along with perhaps news articles and general "reputation," make up the best estimate of a player's quality.

posted by BullpenPro at 06:42 PM on January 15

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