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Thread: Relief Pitchers in the Hall of Fame

  1. #1
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    Relief Pitchers in the Hall of Fame

    Rather than start a poll, I want to have a discussion about this. In addition the relievers who are already in there (though I think they all were starters for part of their career as well), Trevor Hoffman will likely be enshrined soon and, after his waiting period, Mariano Rivera would seem to be a no-brainer too. My question is- are the ones already in worthy? Who should be in that's already eligible? And who that's still active or recently retired deserves the honor as well?
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  2. #2
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    I'll answer my own questions first:

    Are the ones already in worthy? - I'm pretty undecided about all of them, though I don't have a quibble with them individually either. Wilhelm is there mostly on longevity- I'm not sure he was a better knuckleballer than Wilbur Wood all told- but just making it to almost age 50 is an impressive feat, and he did have some good seasons. Eckersley is probably the most deserving- not only did he accomplish a decent amount as a starter but he had some amazing season as a reliever. As for the other three, well, something to be said for being that high on the career saves list considering a save used to mean more pitching, and was harder to get.

    Who should be in that's already eligible? - Anyone with over 400 career saves might be at least borderline, but Lee Smith should be in. Even allowing for his erraticism and the fact that he's been surpassed by Hoffman and Rivera, he still set the standards for saves, was way ahead of anyone else for a while, and started before the age of specialization completely kicked in. The kicker for me is, even if relief stats really go back less than half a century, the woods are full of closers who performed at historic levels for 5 years or less, but it's the rare talent, even now, that does it for an extended period of time. Not only was Smith the first to be a top reliever year in, year out for 15 years, before Hoffman and Rivera he was the only one.

    Who that's still active or recently retired deserves the honor as well? - Rivera's the no-brainer. He was there when it counts and presided over a classic Yankee era (and I say that as a Yankee-hater). Hoffman's deserving as well for his consistency, though unlike Rivera he didn't have much in the way of postseason experience (and was solid but unspectacular the few times he was there) and unlike Smith barely had more innings than appearances. He'll probably be superceded as well not too long from now, but for now he's the one that's done what he's done.
    Found in a fortune cookie On Thursday, August 18th, 2005: "Hard words break no bones, Kind words butter no parsnips."

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  3. #3
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    Wilhelm rates easily. He had one of the best peaks ever from 64-68 he was 1.74 ERA+ 185 whip .0924 and averaged 108 innings. The only year that he was a starter 1959, he led the league in ERA and ERA+. Wilhelm is 8th all-time in h/9 and he had longevity.

    Gossage also wasn't getting just 1 inning appearances like now. Look at these innings pitched to ERAs, all in relief as the closer> 1975 142/1.84, 1977 133/1.62, 1978 134/2.01, 1980 99/2.27, 1982 93/2.23, 1984 102/2.90

    Fingers from 1972-82 averaged 65 app and 109 innings a year 2.63 era and ERA+ 131

    These 3 guys easily rate. I'm not high on the one inning wonders, but I would put Smith, Rivera, and Hoffman in and that's it. Sutter doesn't rate but he did have some amazing seasons. He's not the worst selection.

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    I think Billy Wagner gets underrated. I would put him in before Lee Smith and probably Trevor Hoffman.
    "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

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  5. #5
    I'm in the vast minority but...I wouldn't cry if Ron Perranoski, Kent Tekulve and/or Clay Carroll got in.
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    The only ones I would put in are Hoyt Wilhelm and Mariano Rivera with Rich Gossage being a maybe. On the other hand if Bruce Sutter is in then there are about 6 or 7 guys I'd put in before him.
    "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

    "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
    The only ones I would put in are Hoyt Wilhelm and Mariano Rivera with Rich Gossage being a maybe. On the other hand if Bruce Sutter is in then there are about 6 or 7 guys I'd put in before him.
    These are my feelings exactly. Wilhelm, and Rivera for sure and Gossage probably in for me. I'd say yes to Gossage today. He had a 146 ERA+ over his last 1200+ innings and 182 over 9 years while averaging 93 innings per.

    Wilhelm actually had the best ERA+ in history (2000+ innings) through 1969 and of course only broke into the majors at age 29 (turned 30 midseason). He had a 156 ERA+ for 881 innings after age 40. Since he was one of the most valuable players in the league in his rookie season, he almost surely lost 2-3 solid seasons to military service but maybo someone else knows more specifics. Rivera is totally automatic when you look at his post season play.

  8. #8
    To the current HOF, I would add Billy Wagner and Dan Quisenberry. Otherwise, I think the HoF has done a good job with relievers. The only one I'm not a fan of is Rollie Fingers as he was a bit of a compiler. Trevor Hoffman was also a compiler.

    EDIT: Of course Rivera sails in as soon as he reties.
    Last edited by jjpm74; 11-26-2012 at 07:43 AM.

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    --I would be fine with fewer relievers in the Hall. Wilhelm, Gossage and Rivera (when eligible) are the only ones I strongly support. Eckersley I think deserved his induction based on his good record as a SP combined with his excellent second act as a reliever.
    --Fingers has a decent narrative, but he really only had a few great seasons in a long (and very good) career. He isn't a clear mistake, but if I'm building a Hall from scratch he probably doesn't make it. Sutter was a poor choice and if he is the standard then the door is open for at least 8-10 more relievers. That would be WAY too many. I'd be happier if Rivera is the only future induction based on achievement to date and the standard for future relievers is set moe around the Gossage level. That is a long strech of dominance, combined with a very long and successfull career.

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    To be fair to Fingers, the guy was a 4 time Rolaids Award winner, a CYA winner, a MVP winner, and a WS MVP winner. And most of those were won after he left the juggernaut A's teams too.

    I understand the argument for Lee Smith, and under most circumstances i'd want him in. But he was the most unimpressive saves leader saves leader I've ever seen. He collected all those saves for teams that never won anything (save 84 and 88, both LCS losses), especially those Cardinal teams where he had his best seasons. Just ask yourself, how many closers would you pick to close for you before you get to Lee Smith? 10? 15?

    Obviously, Rivera is a mortal lock 1st ballot HOF guy. He defines the position IMO.

    Hoffman is a lot tougher. He did rack up all those save...but like Smith, how much did they matter on those Padres teams? With that said, I'd take Hoffy over Smith anyday of the week.

    And what about the argument for John Franco? #4 on the saves list. A solid consistant performer over his career. If you let Smith in, it seems like you have to put Franco in too.

    But what this thread tells me is that there just not a lot of Candidates who just scream out HOFer. Those that did are either already in, or will be in about six years (Rivera).
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    I've never been a fan of relievers in the HOF because, IMO, they are still guys who are not good enough to start. Relievers, even the best, have either (A) endurance issues, or (B) limited pitch selections, rendering them "one trick ponies".

    That being said, I would advocate for Rivera. The rest, I can't really get excited about. Hoffman, maybe, but Wagner, I'd have to think about.
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    As of now, eleven relievers make my HoF:
    Rivera
    Gossage
    Henke
    Fingers
    Hoffman
    Wilhelm
    Wagner
    J. Franco
    Eckersley
    L. Smith
    Quiz

    If I had t drop one to limit myself to ten, it would be Quiz. One day I may add Joe Nathan to that list as well as K-Rod if he picks up again. Kimbrel is too young to tell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzy Bear View Post
    I've never been a fan of relievers in the HOF because, IMO, they are still guys who are not good enough to start. Relievers, even the best, have either (A) endurance issues, or (B) limited pitch selections, rendering them "one trick ponies".

    That being said, I would advocate for Rivera. The rest, I can't really get excited about. Hoffman, maybe, but Wagner, I'd have to think about.
    Just curious but it sounds like you would rate Hoffman better than Wagner. I would think Wagner had the better career. Is it because of the saves that Hoffman is better? I guess I could see the logic behind that because after all when its all said and done career records do matter and Hoffman did put up the better saves total. I guess saves would be the benchmark for a closer. If I had to choose between em though I think I would rather have Wagner.
    "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

    "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyrus4189Cobb View Post
    As of now, eleven relievers make my HoF:
    Rivera
    Gossage
    Henke
    Fingers
    Hoffman
    Wilhelm
    Wagner
    J. Franco
    Eckersley
    L. Smith
    Quiz

    If I had t drop one to limit myself to ten, it would be Quiz. One day I may add Joe Nathan to that list as well as K-Rod if he picks up again. Kimbrel is too young to tell.

    I gained a lot more appreciation after reading Fireman by Zimniuch. Face and Konstanty played a considerable role in the pioneer era
    Wow Tyrus you amost have as many relievers in the Hall as there are thirdbasemen.
    "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

    "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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    Quote Originally Posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
    I think Billy Wagner gets underrated.
    Quote Originally Posted by KHenry14 View Post
    To be fair to Fingers, the guy was a 4 time Rolaids Award winner, a CYA winner, a MVP winner, and a WS MVP winner. And most of those were won after he left the juggernaut A's teams too.
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    Rivera and that's it. Not at all a fan of the one inning closer. Franco among those mentioned might be the king of the compilers. That would pretty much describe his career with the Mets after a year or three. Wagner I agree gets very little credit.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
    The only ones I would put in are Hoyt Wilhelm and Mariano Rivera with Rich Gossage being a maybe. On the other hand if Bruce Sutter is in then there are about 6 or 7 guys I'd put in before him.
    Yup. You said it perfectly.
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  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
    Wow Tyrus you amost have as many relievers in the Hall as there are thirdbasemen.
    The only surprise on that list is the lack of Kent Tekulve. Henke was a dominant reliever and someone I can see a HOF case for.

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    Wilhelm, Rivera, and Eck (combined duty) for sure. I could go either way on Gossage. That's it.
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  20. #20
    Here is my list of 18 relievers with a Hall Rating above 50. Hall Rating is what I used in the Hall of Stats. The induction line is 100, so only Wilhelm is in (and Rivera is on track to).

    Mariano Rivera - 126
    Hoyt Wilhelm - 106
    Rich Gossage - 88
    John Hiller - 65
    Billy Wagner - 65
    Trevor Hoffman - 63
    Lee Smith - 62
    Stu Miller - 56
    Dan Quisenberry - 56
    Lindy McDaniel - 54
    Joe Nathan - 54
    Kent Tekulve - 53
    Bruce Sutter - 53
    John Franco - 52
    Tom Henke - 52
    Jesse Orosco - 52
    Don McMahon - 52
    Rollie Fingers - 50

    I'm making some adjustment for relief seasons, but I'm not sure how much of a boost to give. For that reason, I find it useful to look at the gaps in the list. There's a big one after Gossage. So maybe he's the cutoff. There's also a gap after Hiller, Wagner, Hoffman, and Smith. Maybe a big Hall of Stats welcomes them.

    Otherwise, they're not for me. I like Quiz, but I really only like his HOF case when compared to Sutter.

    Note: this list includes only pitchers who relieved in 80% of their appearances. Dennis Eckersley was actually more valuable as a starter, so I don't have him here.
    The Hall of Stats: An alternate Hall of Fame populated by a mathematical formula.

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    Thanks for that. I find how to deal with relievers very puzzling. Saves are pretty cheap things as far as the minimum you have to do to get them, but someone who does it well for a long time seems HoF worthy to me. I don't know how much adjustment you have to do to make it show in the stats. I mean, I can accept that some folks make the cutoff, but I'm shocked how much some of them miss by.

    Another thing this (and my more complete perusal of BBR) proves is that I've grossly underrated Hoyt Wilhelm. Pretty remarkable career all-told.
    Found in a fortune cookie On Thursday, August 18th, 2005: "Hard words break no bones, Kind words butter no parsnips."

    1955 1959 1963 1965 1981 1988

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