Thursday, February 2, 2012

Livan Hernandez - Hall of Famer

There has been some outcry among fans, and jokes among national writers, about the Astros signing of Livan Hernandez to a minor league deal. But I say they're missing the historical significance of this unquestionably dominant pitcher.

Ok, by now you're already typing your "Juvenile Court Clerk is an idiot" comments, and that's ok. I realize this in depth analysis will be lost on many readers. I'm willing to take the heat to get this historically important conversation started.

You see, most BBWAA members often start looking at two things when determining whether or not to vote a player into the HOF: a dominant peak and longevity. For example, CBS Sports writer Jon Heyman explained this very process when he was talking about Jack Morris' HOF candidacy. Here's what he says:

Morris' detractors generally point to one unextraordinary number, and while it's an important number, it should not define his career. His lifetime ERA of 3.90 would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame, and his ERA plus of 105 is barely above average. But Morris pitched deep into his games and deep into his middle age, trampling his lifetime ERA. Morris is known by teammates to have pitched to the score, which enabled him to win more games than anyone else in the '80s and 254 games overall. (The leading winners in the seven preceding decades are all in the Hall.) In seven seasons, he received Cy Young votes. So he had plenty of great years.
Morris was a bulldog who refused to leave games. He completed 175 of them, and that doesn't even count Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, in which he turned in one of the greatest pitching performances in baseball history to help his hometown Twins beat the Braves 1-0 and win the Series. Morris was considered a great pitcher during his career, not someone who was defined by less meaningful games that dragged his ERA up beyond a representative number.

Well, we all have heard by now that wins are falling out of favor as a measurement of pitching success, so I got to thinking what else would indicate an ability to "pitch deep into games and deep into middle age"? How else could we determine who "was a bulldog who refused to leave games"? I propose that such profound questions can be answered by looking at innings pitched. After all, you can't rack up high innings totals without pitching deep into games for multiple years, right?  But how do we determine where to set the bar? Again, let's use the same process esteemed BBWAA member Jon Heyman uses above. Let's look at who the innings pitched leaders are by decade and how they fared in HOF voting.

1880's - Pud Galvin - HOF member
1890's - Kid Nichols - HOF member
1900's - Cy Young - HOF member
1910's - Walter Johnson - HOF member
1920's - Burleigh Grimes - HOF member
1930's - Carl Hubbell - HOF member
1940's - Hal Newhouser - HOF member
1950's - Robin Roberts - HOF member
1960's - Don Drysdale - HOF member
1970's - Gaylord Perry - HOF member
1980's - Jack Morris - Not HOF member, but gaining support
1990's - Greg Maddux - Not HOF member, but possible first ballot selection

Wow, that's 12 straight decades of innings leaders who are either already in or likely to be in the HOF. That's an even stronger indicator than Jon Heyman's win leader by decade, right? So who was the leader in the 2000's? None other than Houston's newest starting pitcher, Livan Hernandez.

Who's joking now?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If your point was that Heyman is a moron --well put.