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Frank 'Firpo' Marberry the first Great Relievers......a Hall Of Famer?

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  • Frank 'Firpo' Marberry the first Great Relievers......a Hall Of Famer?

    I read the SABR biography of Washington Senators great, Firpo Marberry, whom the author called the first of the great relievers" Marberry was outstanding as both a reliever and as a starter and his managers made him alternate between the roles through most of his career. As Saves are figured these days, Mayberry had at least 101 saves, a record for that time, and maybe more, because there were some peculiar scoring practices in effect in Marberry's playing days. In addition, he notched about 150 Wins. It's arguable that had he been left in one role or the other throughout his career that he would already be in the Baseball Hall Of Fame. He would actually still be eligible to be elected to the HOF as a Pre-1950 Era candidate. What do our posters think?

  • #2
    Looking at his splits, I don't think he would have had a HOF career as a starter. His career ERA was 3.63 (116 ERA+), but as a starter it was 3.81 (which I would think would be something around a 110 ERA+ at best). He had a total of 148 wins, but a lot of those wins came in relief. Marberry totaled 92 wins in 186 starts in a career that lasted 14 season, only 11 of which were full season. I think as a full-time starter in a similar career length, Marberry could have won 180 games, 200 tops, out of most likely easily less than 400 total starts. 180-200 wins with a 3.81 ERA & 110 ERA+ is good, but not really a HOF career.

    On the other hand, if he was a full time closer in that time frame, he might have had something closer to a HOF career.
    His ERA in relief was 3.33 (roughly a 125 ERA+ ???). His 97 saves in 273 Games Finished in real life makes me project he could have possibly earned 180-200 saves if he was treated like a closer for those same 14 years of similar career arc. To me, that looks like a reliever who was better than Roy Face, but who would have been surpassed as"best all time closer" by Hoyt Wilhelm by the end of the '60s.
    Last edited by dgarza; 11-06-2019, 01:09 PM.

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    • #3
      Firpo was probably the first pitcher used largely in a relief role, hence the first "Reliever". Doc Crandall of the McGraw Giants has a decent claim as being a relief specialist a generation before Marberry, but most baseball historians point to Firpo.

      Whether he was a "Great Reliever" is another question. He was certainly a workhorse, but he wasn't really an elite run preventer, even allowing for the fact that he played in an extremely offense-heavy era.

      I don't want to slight Firpo...he was "first", and there's absolutely value in that; I just argued this at length in another thread with regard to Tommy John. I think Marberry's trailblazing role should be recognized, and if he made the Hall I'd be happy about it.

      But when you stack Firpo up next to Billy Wagner, Dan Quisenberry, Sparky Lyle...even allowing for huge usage differences, Marberry is going to be the Zeppo Marx compared to Groucho, Chico, & Harpo.

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      • #4
        Great analysis guys. I wouldn't mind seeing Marberry get in but I'd say it's pretty darn doubtful.
        "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

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        • #5
          Originally posted by dgarza View Post
          Looking at his splits, I don't think he would have had a HOF career as a starter. His career ERA was 3.63 (116 ERA+), but as a starter it was 3.81 (which I would think would be something around a 110 ERA+ at best). He had a total of 148 wins, but a lot of those wins came in relief. Marberry totaled 92 wins in 186 starts in a career that lasted 14 season, only 11 of which were full season. I think as a full-time starter in a similar career length, Marberry could have won 180 games, 200 tops, out of most likely easily less than 400 total starts. 180-200 wins with a 3.81 ERA & 110 ERA+ is good, but not really a HOF career.

          On the other hand, if he was a full time closer in that time frame, he might have had something closer to a HOF career.
          His ERA in relief was 3.33 (roughly a 125 ERA+ ???). His 97 saves in 273 Games Finished in real life makes me project he could have possibly earned 180-200 saves if he was treated like a closer for those same 14 years of similar career arc. To me, that looks like a reliever who was better than Roy Face, but who would have been surpassed as"best all time closer" by Hoyt Wilhelm by the end of the '60s.
          There's also Joe Page, and Jim Konstanty to consider among "Pure Relievers", plus starter-relievers Lindy McDaniel , Dick 'Turk' Farrell and Harry Dorish to consider among the early relief stars, when the relief specialist was just being established.. They were all all-stars in their best years, but maybe they don't quite rise to be serious Hall Of Fame candidates.

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