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Candidate Cage Match: Tommy John vs Luis Tiant

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  • Candidate Cage Match: Tommy John vs Luis Tiant

    In this series of threads, I am conducting polls to answer the question of which candidate has the stronger case for election to Cooperstown? This is a gauge of your opinion of their merits, not of their chances for election.

    Here we look at two of this year's Modern Baseball candidates. Which pitcher has the better chops, El Tiante or Tommy John?
    15
    Tommy John deserves election more.
    20.00%
    3
    Luis Tiant deserves election more.
    80.00%
    12
    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

  • #2
    My instinct said Tiant. I looked at the numbers so this is not just an off the seat of my pants exercise. Juhn has a longer career with almost half a career more IP, @ 4700-3500, so the ERA+ disadvantage (111-114) is somewhat mitigated. If you look at their seasons Tiant's case is 1972-1976, plus an exceptional 1968. He has a season or two of good work but with lesser innings prior to 1968. His late 70s is a wind down with good teams thus creating nice W-L records with average pitching. John has 1977-1980 as his baseball card peak. 1968-1970 look soso on a baseball card but the metrics are more favorable to them. He also led the league in W% the two years before his surgery. Tiant, as we may or may not know, had his own arm issues after 1968 that (presumably) led to a very poor 1969 and two years of minimal pitching before his comeback with the Red Sox in 1972. To make a long story short, Tiant rose maybe half a degree higher than John during his prime and it lasted for perhaps one more season. This may or may not be reflected in Tiant's several top tens in the MVP versus John's 0. John could say, "but I was 2nd in the Cy Young and 4th while you never did so well", making that a wash, John does not have the "injury card" to use against Tiant, as Tiant has one of his own. In the end one advantage Tiant has is the 1968 season, which John never approached. Tiant rose higher at his very best and his prime was maybe one more season than John's.

    The metrics give Tiant the edge both in WAR (slight) and WAA (clear). A look at something like WPA on a seasonal basis left me thinking John was better than his other metrics, perhaps because of craftiness or being a groundball pitcher since he had half a dozen top 10s, whereas most other stats had him with 3. Then I saw Tiant and he had 6, but two were first place and he had 5 that were better than John's top three. (I should note in career they are separated by a half point, with the edge going to Tiant).

    Everything but career W and career length points to Tiant. He was better at his best, and his next best was more or less a t the level of John's best.
    Last edited by PVNICK; 12-07-2017, 01:14 PM. Reason: spellcheck did not catch all the typos or fractured prose

    Comment


    • #3
      Good summary. Agreed. Funny that for both pitchers, their very best season were on the worse teams of their careers (Cleveland and Chicago, respectively), compared to less-good seasons with better clubs later in their careers.
      "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
      "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
      "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
      "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

      Comment


      • #4
        I was quite surprised to see that John's 68-70 seasons with Chicago came out as being better than his years as a WS ace, 20 game winner from 77-80.

        Comment


        • #5
          Me too when I looked. Not exactly the narrative we thought we knew before.
          "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
          "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
          "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
          "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

          Comment


          • #6
            Tiant was better at his best. LOUEEEEEEEEE!!
            This week's Giant

            #5 in games played as a Giant with 1721 , Bill Terry

            Comment


            • #7
              Luis Tiant.

              Comment


              • #8
                Tiant was a much better pitcher than John. This one isn't even close.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm going with John. Career length matters.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jjpm74 View Post
                    Tiant was a much better pitcher than John. This one isn't even close.
                    Depends on how much credit is given to John versus his defenders, FIP and Tom Thress see John as > Tiant, but Luis dwarfs Tommy by RA9 measures.
                    Jacquelyn Eva Marchand (1983-2017)
                    http://www.tezakfuneralhome.com/noti...uelyn-Marchand

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cougar View Post
                      I'm going with John. Career length matters.
                      It matters more what was actually accomplished in said career. By most measures, Tiant is superior.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Gotta go with John, although Tiant probably had more talent; to me Tiant is a classic 'HOF talent' type of guy, who did not nearly live up to his potential due to injuries. John is kind of the opposite, overcame injury to accomplish perhaps much more than he had any right to.

                        If we cut john off after the 1981 season, he has about the same innings as Tiant. Unbelievably, he went on to pitch eight more seasons.

                        John, after 1981:
                        223-159 3.01 ERA 3488 IP 119 ERA+

                        Tiant's career:
                        229-172 3.30 ERA 3486 IP 114 ERA+

                        John is a bit better at that point. How much credit do we give him for the next eight years in his forties, when he was largely mediocre? Probably a bit, but it really doesn't matter since he was already superior to Tiant without it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by willshad View Post
                          Gotta go with John, although Tiant probably had more talent; to me Tiant is a classic 'HOF talent' type of guy, who did not nearly live up to his potential due to injuries. John is kind of the opposite, overcame injury to accomplish perhaps much more than he had any right to.

                          If we cut john off after the 1981 season, he has about the same innings as Tiant. Unbelievably, he went on to pitch eight more seasons.

                          John, after 1981:
                          223-159 3.01 ERA 3488 IP 119 ERA+

                          Tiant's career:
                          229-172 3.30 ERA 3486 IP 114 ERA+

                          John is a bit better at that point. How much credit do we give him for the next eight years in his forties, when he was largely mediocre? Probably a bit, but it really doesn't matter since he was already superior to Tiant without it.
                          But that means we are including Tiant's way past it seasons while ignoring John's. Tiant in 1980-1982 went from the Yankees to the Pirates and then the Angels. He went 12-16 with a 4.76 ERA in over 200 innings for an ERA+ of 82. Even his WAR was -0.1. His WAA was -2.0. If we stop Tiant after 1979 he is 217-156 3.21 ERA 3263 IP 118 ERA+.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by PVNICK View Post

                            But that means we are including Tiant's way past it seasons while ignoring John's. Tiant in 1980-1982 went from the Yankees to the Pirates and then the Angels. He went 12-16 with a 4.76 ERA in over 200 innings for an ERA+ of 82. Even his WAR was -0.1. His WAA was -2.0. If we stop Tiant after 1979 he is 217-156 3.21 ERA 3263 IP 118 ERA+.
                            True, but if John had basically Tiant's entire career before entering his decline phase isn;t that something in his favor? I tried to cut it off at about the same amount of innings pitched.

                            Comment

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