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Random Bert Blyleven facts

Dec 28, 2009, 5:00 PM EDT

I’m pretty sure that this is the slowest news day in baseball history. As such, I surfed around for some random Bert Blyleven facts that speak to some of the criticisms and/or put some of his accomplishments in perspective. Yes, there is an undeniable element of cherry picking to this — like I said this morning, Rich Lederer has done the heavy lifting in terms of real argument — but there is an even stronger element of cherry picking to the case against Blyleven’s Hall of Fame candidacy, so why not fight fire with fire?  Randomness:

  • Oh noes! Blyleven led the league in losses once!  Modern-era pitchers who lost more games than Bert Blyleven: Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton;
  • Guys who didn’t pitch as many innings as Bert Blyleven: Roger Clemens, Christy Mathewson, Tom Seaver, Tommy John, Greg Maddux;
  • People use his wins against him (as in, why couldn’t he get 300)? OK, here are guys who didn’t win as many games as Bert Blyleven: Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, Bob Gibson, Jack Morris, Juan Marichal. All but Morris pitched in eras of the four man rotation too;
  • Guys who didn’t pitch as many shutouts as Blyleven: Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Whitey Ford, Robin Roberts. Actually, it would be easier to list the guys who had more shutouts than Blyleven. There are only eight;
  • Guys who didn’t win 10 games or more as many times as Blyleven: Robin Roberts, Carl Hubbell, Fergie Jenkins, Jack Morris, Lefty Grove;
  • Guys who didn’t hit as many batters as Blyleven (i.e. he was a badass!): Roger Clemens, Don Dysdale, Pedro Martinez;
  • Guys who won more 1-0 games than Bert Blyleven: Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander. That’s it;
  • What’s with the Opening Day starts thing anyway? Heyman made a big deal out the fact that Jack Morris had been given the ball on Opening Day 14 times in his career, rendering him King Ace or something. Well, Blyleven got the honor 12 times. Is this really a distinction with a difference?
  • And the dingers?  Sure, Blyleven gave up a lot of homers. But it’s worth noting that five of the seven guys who gave up more homers than Bert are Hall of Famers themselves: Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Neikro, Sutton and Spahn.  Frank Tanana and Jamie Moyer are the other two. Steve Carlton gave up only sixteen less than Bert did. Jack Morris would have given up more than Bert if he had the four seasons under his belt that Bert had over him;
  • Defense? Eh, not a big part of the discussion for a pitcher, but Bert did go the entire 1976 season without making an error, and that’s pretty spiffy;

Yes, I realize I’m not going to change anyone’s mind here, but when our civilization crashes and future archaeologists dig through our ruins, I would like there to be some collected evidence that Bert Blyleven was a Hall of Fame quality pitcher even if he never makes it.

  1. rje49 - Dec 28, 2009 at 6:15 PM

    That’s right; you didn’t change my mind. I still think he deserves being in the Hall of Fame.
    You’re also right about it being a slow baseball news day. Think about this possiblity- just seconds before midnight on Thursday, you can correctly say “baseball season ended last month”, then continue by saying “spring training starts next month”. Hooray!
    Yep, it’s a slow news day….

  2. ED FL - Dec 28, 2009 at 7:56 PM

    I can not believe that Blylven ever played pro baseball. I always though he was just another reporter that thinks he is a know it all and never could or did play the game. Now I see he is trying to get himself put in the hall of fame. What was such an earth shattering accomplishment that he would have to try to get himself as a HOF prospect. One time I thought that i heard the name and an association with Minnesota. Do not ever remember anyone from minnesota that was that great outside of rod carew. good luck in your endeavors.

  3. Be Home Blyleven - Dec 28, 2009 at 8:25 PM

    Harmon Killebrew say hello, Brainiac.

  4. Tom MD - Dec 28, 2009 at 8:42 PM

    To ED FL, Ignorance is bliss…I’m old enough to have seen all of the great pitchers from the early 60’s to now. I never considered Blyleven the “best” at any time during his career but that is more a function of the amazing contemporaries of his time. Gibson, Seaver (my personal favorite), Carlton, Palmer, Jenkins, Ryan, Morris…to name just a few. Overall, I’m quite sure that someday he will make it to Cooperstown. His career numbers warrant this distinction.
    In regards to great Minnesota players…have you ever heard of Harmon Killebrew?!

  5. Bert - Dec 28, 2009 at 10:41 PM

    Good article.

  6. D-Luxxx - Dec 28, 2009 at 10:56 PM

    Uhh, Kirby Puckett?
    Bert deserves it. Give it to the man.

  7. pepe - Dec 29, 2009 at 12:22 AM

    ED FL is pulling y’alls legs.

  8. Bill Gros - Dec 29, 2009 at 1:12 AM

    Let me continue with some Bert Blyleven facts:
    -He beat Jack Morris in the 1987 American League Championship Series. Game #2 October 8, 1987.
    -He threw a no-hitter on September 22, 1977 vs. the California Angels.
    -I think Blyleven gets a bad rap on home runs, sure he gave up 50 and 46 during consecutive seasons in 1986 and 1987 when his fastball lost a bit of zip, otherwise the third highest total was 24 during a 275inning season of 1975. Remove the 86 and 87 seasons and thats only 334 home runs in 4432 innings! That’s an outstanding figure that closley matches the the rate in which Roger Clemens and Gaylord Perry gave up home runs.
    -The 10 inning one-hit shutout of June 21, 1976, that Craig mentioned in the article, well in his next start he threw ANOTHER 10 inning shutout on June 26, 1976 against the White Sox. BOTH of those victories were by 1-0 scores.
    -Lost most of the 1982 season in the prime of his career (only 4 starts with 2 wins and 2 losses) due to an elbow problem that required surgery.
    -Pitched 4 shutout innings in game 5 of the 1979 World Series, in relief, on two days rest with Pittsburgh down three games to one. A truly unheralded performance that garnered him the win and enabled Pittsburgh to continue toward eventually winning the series.
    -When he retired, Blyleven was third in all time strikeouts, sinced passed by Clemens and Randy Johnson.
    A Blyleven Curveball, and this one is only ok….
    Good luck to Bert Blyleven during this years election process. He deserves it.

  9. Eat a Peach - Dec 29, 2009 at 5:40 AM

    The real reasons Bert is not yet in the Hall of Fame? He had the misfortune of pitching for bad or (when he was lucky) average teams in low-profile cities. A great many of the writers who vote for the HOF are curmudgeonly types who don’t understand what all the fuss is over this young whippersnapper Bill James and all his fancy numbers and acronyms. A lot of these guys still actually think W-L totals mean something.
    As a truly hilarious wingnut (how did he not end up a closer??) and one of the great clubhouse hot-foot artists of all time, he will be a first-ballot inductee when I start my “Hall of Hilarity.” Pete Rose’s statue and plaque in the HOH will include a variety of pictures of Rose betting horses, betting sports, and flipping off pictures of Commissioners past and present.

  10. Dakota - Dec 29, 2009 at 12:26 PM

    A picture is worth a thousand words

  11. Dave Yoder - Dec 29, 2009 at 4:36 PM

    1979 was a great year. We were new to Pittsburg and baseball. What a year, Capt. Willie Stargell, Dave Parker,Phil (Scrapyard dog) Garner, Tim Foley, and my favorite reliever to watch: “The Rubberband Man himself Kent Tekulve. Omar Moreno stealing bases and “The Dutchman” Bert Blyleven. Some may remember that this season began by a game in Pittsburg being called off because of a snowstorm….and by one of the W.S. games in Baltimore being played in such thick fog that the outfielders could not see to catch the fly balls. When the Pirates came back from being down 3 to 1, to win the World Series I felt life was complete and good. Burt deserves to be in the Hall because he knows that a team wins….that is how he played. Not having him in the Hall devalues any meaning and credibility ….gives lie to the myth of any fairness in these voters.

  12. Eat a Peach - Dec 29, 2009 at 5:41 PM

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    Come on people sing it with me
    We are Family

  13. Tommy - Dec 29, 2009 at 8:20 PM

    I think Bert deserves to be in the Hall, but what about Tommy John or Orel Hershiser. And what about Fernando Valenzuela; Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Winner in the same year. He also won two Silver Slugger Awards, a Gold Glove, and has a World Series Ring. Tommy John’s stats are very similar to Bert’s. Orel Hershiser won a Cy Young Award, a Gold Glove, was MVP in the 1988 World Series against the Yankees, won a Silver Slugger Award, and holds a record 59 consecutive scoreless innings pitched. It seems to me that there are more managers and baseball executives in the Hall then there are pitchers. And some voters gave a lot of votes to relief pitchers.

  14. marsh - Dec 31, 2009 at 10:39 AM

    Bert was a winner! How about his 5-1 w/l record in post-season play?! Bert was tough! He pitched a 1-1 10-inning game with no decision against Seattle in Aug 81 directly after the player’s strike. No one else in the majors pitched more than 5 directly after the strike. I can’t remember the exact figure, but I believe his winning percentage as opposed to the winning percentage of the teams he played on is very good and better than many in the HOF. If he doesn’t make the HOF, not to worry, he made mine! Put him in! Put Rose in too.

  15. Tommy in CT - Jan 1, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    Bert pitched for many mediocre to poor teams, but he also pitched for many good teams. The problem is that he was a mediocre pitcher for good teams, and performed poorly when pitching for good teams in contention.
    Bert had eight seasons in which his teams either won 90 or more games or were in serious contention for a division title – ’70, ’77 – ’80 and ’87 – ’89. He averaged only 12.5 wins per season for those teams. Even more incredibly, he had a lower winning percentage – .546 – than the aggregate .562 winning percentage posted by those eight teams.
    Bert’s post-season record was very good, but he was a consistently poor pitcher in tight September races. Bert had seven seasons in which his team was in serious contention (i.e., leading or trailing by five or fewer games at some point in September prior to elimination). He made 40 September starts in these seven races and compiled a 13-14 record with a 3.04 ERA. He virtually disappeared in Aug/Sept of ’79 during the Pirates great stretch run; Candelaria and Kison stepped up and carried the Bucs while Blyleven almost disappeared (only three wins in his 12 Aug/Sept starts and a 3.77 ERA). His late seasons collapse in ’80 contributed greatly to the Bucs blowing the division lead – Bert went 1-5 in his last eight starts (seven of which the Pirates lost) with a 4.38 ERA.
    These are not Hall of Fame numbers. Many pitchers have made the Hall despite pitching for mediocre teams (Niekro, for example, and Seaver while pitching for the Mets), but these pitchers managed to win despite the mediocrity of their teams. Blyleven did not. He pitched his best for mediocre teams, but failed to duplicate that performance when pitching for good teams with a chance to win championships.

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