New things to come on this site

It’s a short post for Monday, just long enough for me to tell of some new developments around here. This site has existed for almost two years now, and happily, it seems to continue to evolve. This past year has seen a number of new developments, from posts written by people besides myself to regular features to daily postings. Now, a few more things are going to be happening around here.

I’ll list the coming attractions in bullet points, as follows:

  • First, I’m going to debut a Friday link post this week where I’ll link to some of my favorite content from other baseball blogs. A lot of blogs do similar-type posts, and I’ve been meaning to have one here for awhile. I’d encourage anyone to send me stuff they’ve read that they consider worthy. I also welcome anyone to email me their own material.
  • Also on Fridays, Bill Miller and I will be collaborating on a series for his blog, The On Deck Circle. Bill and I are going to alternate weeks writing about good players on bad teams. I will be writing about players prior to 1961, while Bill will cover 1961 to current day. Bill is going to post the first column this Friday, and we will do it until Opening Day. The articles will be strictly on Bill’s blog, though I’ll have a link to the latest installment of the series each Friday. Of course, Bill and I welcome suggestions on who to write about.
  • Starting next Sunday, I will send out a weekly mass email with links to every post on this blog from the past week. I have a few hundred email addresses accrued from comments and emails I’ve received, and I’d like to offer something that serves up the content of this site directly to readers.

Comments and suggestions are welcome and appreciated, as always.

Steroids and the recent Hall of Fame vote

The Baseball Writers Association of America just announced its picks for the Hall of Fame next summer, and the debate continues over who should eventually be in Cooperstown. Players suspected of being involved in the Steroid Era have turned up the heat on this debate making opinions even more intense and subjective. Many writers seem to sit on both sides of the proverbial fence, unable to commit to one side or the other. Lately, the debate seems to be centered on not which player was voted in, but which player was not. Case in point: Rafael Palmeiro, who recently received 11 percent of the vote, despite topping 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.

Baseball is perhaps the one major sport holding statistics as irrefutable benchmarks.  The magic numbers 500 and 3,000 used to equal first ballot enshrinement from the BBWAA. The writers’ voting process continues to be one of gut feeling subjectivity combined somewhat with statistical objectivity. And of course baseball writers have, over the course of covering players, developed personal relationships with them, meaning personal likes and dislikes will be part of the equation. Many writers struggle with this and are often called to task by the general public for their choices.

The Steroid Era has polarized and inflamed the debate amongst writers and fans even more. Where does one draw the line if there even is a line to be drawn? What, if anything, does this change for those who have been denied inclusion? Should baseball adopt a more firm approach to the guidelines which loosely define who is and is not eligible? Who should decide, if they must? How serious and defining should the Hall of Fame be? Is it a right or a privilege?

In a December 28 column for Fox Sports, Ken Rosenthal bemoaned these very ideas. What used to be a fun and a looked forward to perk, Hall of Fame voting, has lost its luster. Rosenthal is not the first nor will he be the last writer to struggle with the revelations of the past decade. Writers do not wish to be seen as judging a player solely on suspected steroid use or other murky issues yet all want to believe in the integrity of the game.

The cases of Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and Palmeiro point to the majority opinion as positive when considering eventual election coupled with an unofficial rationale. There is no infallible yardstick. These recent debates and actions seem to indicate that more respect is due and forthcoming a player elected in his first year of eligibility than someone who reaches somewhere during his fifteen year eligibility.

The solution seems obvious, as voting for the Hall of Fame is mostly subjective anyway with no hard and fast rule. I think there can be no doubt steroid and other performance enhancing drugs greatly inflated statistics for many years. Logic should prevail. Athletes do not naturally get better, stronger and faster as they age. Why should the obvious weigh on the BBWAA? They did nothing wrong except be trusting and naive. Do the math. Two plus two always equals four.

Bert Blyleven is the new Ralph Kiner

For supporters of Bert Blyleven being voted into the Hall of Fame, the inevitable finally happened. The Baseball Writers Association of America caved in, as it did with semi-worthy Ralph Kiner and put Blyleven in Cooperstown. Kiner made it on his fifteenth and last year of eligibility; Blyleven, in his fourteenth try.

Blyleven is a middle level pitcher compared to those already inducted, meaning he’s better than some, worse than others. I wouldn’t have voted for him.

Regular readers know that I’m a restrictionist. I believe fewer inductees make for a more exclusive Hall and contend that it should be reserved for only the best and exclude the very good. I’ve said it here before that voting in Blyleven is like allowing $500,000 net worth individuals into the Millionaire’s Club.

I offered a proposal here in July that before new players would be inducted, the older marginal ones ouoght be weeded out. Good bye Early Wynn; hello, Greg Maddux.

Understanding now that my proposal will never be implemented, I’ve gravitated to a more reasonable approach. Let’s limit the number of years a candidate can appear on the ballot. I’m greatly impressed by the idea introduced on this site by Matthew Warburg who proposes that players not appear on the ballot every year but rather over a series of alternate years with higher vote totals required for every stage.

I prefer a somewhat cleaner cut approach: one year, either in or forever out. Consider the marginal Kiner’s curious case.

In 1960, Kiner’s first year on the ballot, he got three votes and finished eighty-eighth on a ballot of 134. By his fifteenth and final try in 1975, Kiner got 75.4 percent of the vote, one more than the total necessary to qualify.

By that time, however, Kiner was a popular New York Mets’ broadcaster, a peer of the group that voted him in, the BBWAA. Television may have helped Kiner get into Cooperstown, just as numerous articles on the Internet were instrumental in getting Blyleven enshrined.

Another idea worthy of consideration is former New York Times baseball writer and BBWA member Murray Chass’ suggestion that certain strict minimum statistical standards be identified. If a player meets them, he’s in. If not, he’s out. As Chass wrote, “everyone can’t make it.” Under Chass’ system, the writers wouldn’t be burdened by the annual drag of evaluating the statistics of dozens of players of different skill levels.

I’m not in a big lather over Blyleven. I recognize that there’s no right and wrong in individual voting patterns. I’m resigned to an ever-expanding Hall.

But I truly dread the years not that far ahead when Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez and others in the steroid gang start their move toward Cooperstown.

The zero votes Hall of Fame dream lineup– revisted

With the Baseball Writers Association of America announcing the results of its latest round of Hall of Fame voting, one of my favorite traditions occurred. If the revelation of who’s getting into Cooperstown is like Christmas, seeing who doesn’t receive any votes each year has got to at least be like Cranberry Sauce. I think it’s secretly the best thing about this most wonderful time of the baseball year. Six more players can now be added to the list of solid, if far from great, veterans who got zero votes their only time on the BBWAA ballot: Carlos Baerga, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Raul Mondesi, and Kirk Rueter,

Months ago, I created a line-up of some of the best players to not receive any Hall of Fame votes from the writers. One of the regulars here emailed me today, suggesting I do an update to the post, considering Baerga, Johnson, and Mondesi might boost the talent level. I’m happy to oblige. To anyone reading, please feel free to request a story, either by leaving a comment or emailing me. It helps me out a lot, since coming up with original content here four times a week can be challenging.

To make things interesting, I’m adding a different wrinkle to my new roster. Rather than simply revise my old lineup, I’ll offer a second one comprised of Baerga, Johnson, and Mondesi, as well as many players I missed the first time around. No one who appeared on the first lineup is on this one.

Anyhow, here goes:

P – Earl Wilson: One of the first successful black pitchers, Wilson went 121-109 with just nine full seasons and was 22-11 for the Tigers in 1967. Had Wilson not stayed in the minors for much of the 1950s with the Boston Red Sox, who did not field a black player until 1959, he may have had Hall of Fame numbers.

C – Charles Johnson: It’s no surprise Johnson failed to dent the rather deep Cooperstown ballot this year, since his .245 career batting average and OPS+ of 97 would rank him near the bottom of Hall of Fame hitters. Nevertheless, in his prime, Johnson was perhaps the best defensive catcher in baseball, winning four Gold Gloves.

1B – Hal Trosky: The 1930s was a time for hulking first basemen in the American League, with Jimmie Foxx in Boston, Hank Greenberg in Detroit, and Trosky in Cleveland. Trosky topped 100 RBI his first six full seasons, had 136 home runs by his 25th birthday, and hit .302 lifetime. Had he sustained the pace for a full career and not began to decline in his late 20s, who knows what might have been.

2B – Carlos Baerga: Same story, same city even. But after Baerga’s All Star-level career flat-lined, he resurrected himself as a mediocre journeyman. I give him points for trying. Call it the Ruben Sierra Award.

3B – Harlond Clift: Clift played 12 years in the majors and was an All Star in 1937. Mostly, though, his career is about what might have been. Playing his prime years with the St. Louis Browns probably lowered his numbers some, and he suffered a horseback riding injury and case of the mumps in the early ’40s, never the same player thereafter.

SS – Vern Stephens: Here’s proof a few hundred Hall of Fame voters can be wrong. Of any man here, Stephens deserved at least one vote. A seven-time All Star, he offered impressive power for his position, leading the American League in RBI three times and home runs once. It makes little sense his contemporary and teammate Bobby Doerr is in Cooperstown and Stephens isn’t.

OF – Raul Mondesi: Early in his career, Mondesi looked on-track for Cooperstown, a Gold Glove-winning right fielder who could hit for average and power and was the best thing going offensively in Chavez Ravine besides Mike Piazza. After Mondesi’s batting average dipped in 1999, Los Angeles unloaded him to Toronto for Shawn Green, and his career went south, taking him to five other teams. I’m no Dodger fan but I once booed Mondesi at a Yankee-Red Sox game. It’s not one of my prouder moments.

OF – Debs Garms: I came across Garms yesterday in researching my post on Harry Walker, and the name alone makes Garms worthy for here. He sounds more like a soap opera character or a rodeo star or a woman than a former National League batting champion. Of course, his .293 lifetime batting average and .355 clip that NL-leading 1940 season helps, too.

OF – Hal McRae: He’s here for hijacking George Brett’s bat following the Pine Tar Incident, racing down a stadium tunnel, and doing his best to keep opposing manager Billy Martin from stealing a game based on an obscure rule. McRae hit .290 lifetime and had an OPS+ of 122, and while his defense wasn’t much to speak of, he’d be the kind of bat and teammate I’d want around.

Any player/Any era: Harry Walker

What he did: I got a timely reminder of Harry the Hat earlier this week in Bobby Bragan’s 1992 autobiography. Bragan spoke of the players he encountered as a Phillies minor league player in 1939, writing:

And there was Harry ‘The Hat’ Walker. He was one of the greatest hitters I’ve ever seen, or that anyone’s ever seen. Harry was on loan to Pensacola from the St. Louis Cardinals, so he was really up on the rest of us. Teams would sometimes lend minor league players around to be sure all their top prospects got to play every day. Harry was a treat to watch when he was hitting. I’d say he was a lot like Rafael Palmeiro of today’s Texas Rangers, a guy who sprayed his hits from foul line to foul line. Palmeiro does have a little more power. But he and Harry could both hit a given pitch to any part of the field. That’s a tremendous advantage to a batter, and pitchers can’t ever find one pitch or location the guy can’t handle.

Walker won the National League batting championship in 1947 when he hit .363, and he batted .296 overall in his 11-year career. He played more seasons in the minors, 14 in all and posted a better batting average, .315 and over 1,200 more at bats in the bushes. It wasn’t uncommon in his era, when the minors were far deeper and sweet swinging outfielders with questionable fielding abilities, such as Walker, sometimes made long careers outside the majors. I got to wondering: What if Walker had some of the same opportunities as Rafael Palmeiro? I’m guessing Walker would have come out far better in Hall of Fame voting than the 11 percent Palmeiro just posted.

Era he might have thrived in: Because Walker had just four seasons in the majors with at least 500 plate appearances, I’ll forgo converting his  stats to the years Palmeiro played, 1986 through 2005. Instead, we’ll take Walker’s 1947 season and convert it to 1999, when Palmeiro hit .324 with 47 home runs and 148 RBI for the Rangers. At least for batting average, Walker would trounce Palmeiro.

Why: On the surface, a .363 batting average in any year seems plenty high. But baseball immediately following World War II favored pitchers. And Walker spent most of 1947 with the Phillies, a seventh place club that hit .258 and posted an OPS+ of 81, meaning they were worse offensively than their already anemic league. For Walker to bat .363 in these circumstances is kind of amazing. Since 1900, there has only been one batting champion on a team with a worse OPS+ than the ’47 Phillies: Dale Alexander who somehow hit .372 for a 1932 Red Sox club that had an OPS+ of 75 and finished 43-111.

So it’s not surprising Walker’s numbers would rise with the ’99 Rangers who hit .293 and had an OPS+ of 108. Using the conversion tool on, I have Walker hitting .395 with 223 hits for the ’99 Rangers. He wouldn’t offer much power, with one home run and 53 RBI, though he would have 19 triples and a .997 OPS. If he could combine this with several seasons of at least All Star-level contact hitting, he might have a shot at Cooperstown. It worked for Rod Carew; Paul Waner, too.

The key would be for Walker to make the majors sooner than he did in real life and DH at the end of his career instead of returning to the minors and starring once more. Ralph Branca noted in the Branca autobiography, “Minor league success was in no way a guarantee of ever playing in the big leagues. Many guys against their will made careers out of playing in the high minors…. The guys heading up the organizations thought having veteran players around on the Triple-A teams and lower ones was good for the young kids.” This generally doesn’t happen anymore.

And of course, Walker could never have a finger wagging performance in front of Congress, a la Palmeiro. I’m giving Walker the benefit of the doubt here.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert Pujols, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Dom DiMaggio, Frank Howard, Fritz MaiselGeorge CaseHarmon KillebrewHome Run Baker, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr., Lefty O’Doul, Nate ColbertPete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, The Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Willie Mays

A Prayer for Harmon Killebrew

In 1956, Sport Magazine surveyed all 16 major league managers to find out who they picked as their most reliable clutch hitters.

For the most part, the answers were predictable. Casey Stengel chose Yogi Berra; Pinky Higgins, Ted Williams; Bill Rigney, Willie Mays and Fred Hutchinson, Stan Musial.

Some responses were surprising. Cincinnati Redlegs’ pilot Birdie Tebbetts picked Johnnie Temple instead of Ted Kluszewski and Frank Robinson while Bucky Harris tapped Ray Boone over Al Kaline or perennial .300 hitter Harvey Kuenn.

One pick was incomprehensible. Washington Senators’ manager Chuck Dressen selected Ernie Oravetz. Don’t feel badly if you don’t remember or never heard of Oravetz, a 145 pound, 5’4” reserve outfielder who in his two year career (1955-1956), hit no home runs and only batted in 36 runners. Adding to the oddity of Dressen’s choice, in 1955, Ortavetz hit .171 in 35 pinch hit appearances. By the end of 1956, Ortavez was out of baseball for good.

Maybe Dressen was having fun at reporter Milton Richmond’s expense. What Dressen told Richmond for the record was: “For a kid his size, he certainly did a man’s job in the clutch.”

Looking at the 1956 Senators’ roster, Dressen had several hitters that his 15 managerial peers certainly would have picked over Ortavez in critical situations: Clint Courtney, Pete Runnels (a future two-time batting champion), Roy Sievers (the 1957 American League home run and RBI leader), Jim Lemon (back-to-back 100 RBI seasons in 1959 and 1960) and the incomparable Hall of Famer slugger Harmon Killebrew who before he hung up his spikes would hit 537 four-baggers with 40 or more eight times

The sad news that Killebrew is suffering from deadly esophageal cancer has put him in the forefront of our thoughts and prayers.

In 1956, Killebrew was three years away from his break out 1959 season when he blasted 42 homers and knocked in 102. By 1960, Killebrew appeared on the cover of the Senators’ yearbook.

Here, in part, is how the Senators’ described Killebrew who still had 16 spectacular baseball years ahead of him:

Baseball’s most exciting new figure, Harmon burst into full stardom last year. He smashed 29 homers in the first three months and for a while threatened many of Babe Ruth’s home run records for a season. His tape measure clouts earned him the starting job for the American League in the All Star Game in Pittsburgh.

Harmon himself was so outstanding a high school footballer that he received a number of collegiate scholarship offers. The original Harmon Clayton Killebrew, grandfather of the star third baseman, was a legendary strongman, reputed to have been the heavy weight wrestling champion of the Illinois detachment of the Union Army during the Civil War.

During emotionally trying times when family and old friends struggle for their lives, we can often find comfort in remembering them during younger, happier days.

Drop Killebrew a line:

Minnesota Twins

1 Twins Way

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Adrian Beltre

Claim to fame: Beltre just finished the second-best season of his 13-year career, batting .321 with 28 home runs and 108 RBI for the Red Sox. Now, it looks like, similar to his 2004 career year when he hit .334 with 48 home runs and 121 RBI for the Dodgers and thereupon signed a lucrative deal with the Mariners, Beltre will cash in. ESPN reported Monday evening that the unrestricted free agent was on the verge of signing a six-year, $90 million contract with the Rangers. If this goes through, his Hall of Fame case could get a lot more interesting.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Beltre is an active player and cannot be considered for enshrinement until five years after he retires.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? I know, this might sound crazy. Right now, Beltre is a lifetime .275 hitter with a career OPS+ of 108 and just one All Star appearance (though his 10.2 career defensive WAR suggests he may have deserved more than two Gold Gloves.) Until this time, Beltre has been mostly known as a maddeningly talented third baseman with a penchant for putting up MVP-caliber numbers in contract years and hitting about .270 in between.

Here’s where I see Beltre having a shot at Cooperstown: As of now, he’s played home games 12 of his 13 seasons at Dodger Stadium and Safeco Field, two pitchers’ parks if there ever were them. The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is not this way. It is the Horse Whisperer for troubled hitters. It made a superstar out of Josh Hamilton. It made Milton Bradley look, well, normal. We just saw what Beltre was capable of playing one year at Fenway. Imagine what he could do the next five or ten years batting next to Hamilton.

Already, Beltre has looked like someone who was going to present a statistical dilemma for voters. Having debuted in the majors at 19, he’ll turn 32 at the beginning of this season, and barring injury, Beltre should have a chance at two stats that typically ensure enshrinement: 3,000 hits (he’s at 1,889 right now) and 500 home runs. The latter feat would be trickier, since Beltre currently has 278 home runs and would need to up his yearly averages by five or ten homers. Still, with Texas, this might happen. Regardless, there’s never been an eligible player with 3,000 hits who didn’t ultimately get into Cooperstown.

(Side note: Beltre’s page on says he’s most similar, by age, to Ron Santo who recently finished tied for second in this Web site’s poll of the 50 greatest players not in Cooperstown. Just think if Santo had gotten a chance at 32 to play out his career in Texas during an era that favored hitters. No way he’d still be on the fence for the Hall of Fame.)

Of course, if Beltre played his full career in Los Angeles and Seattle, I don’t know if he’d have any real hopes for Cooperstown. I wonder if voters will look askance at Ranger hitters as a latter generation of voters did with great sluggers from the 1930s, keeping Chuck Klein and Johnny Mize from their plaques for decades. Generally, though, it’s numbers that ultimately talk and trump context. Even if Beltre brings the same abilities to the Rangers he’s had for the last 13 years, and his stats are the only thing that change, that may be enough for enshrinement. Is that right? I dunno.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Al OliverAlbert BelleBert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil TravisChipper JonesDan QuisenberryDave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Jack MorrisJoe CarterJohn Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith HernandezLarry WalkerMaury WillsMel HarderPete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

The 10 best pitching rotations without any Hall of Famers

I recently picked up a copy of Bobby Bragan’s autobiography and have been reading bits of it. I came across a passage early on where Bragan talks about the World Series champion Cincinnati Reds of 1940 and great Reds pitchers like Bucky Walters, Paul Derringer, and Johnny Vander Meer, and it occurred to me that none of the men are in the Hall of Fame. In fact, no one who threw so much as one pitch for Cincinnati in 1940 is in Cooperstown. With the Baseball Writers Association of America set to announce on Wednesday who it will enshrine this summer, I decided to look for other great pitching staffs without any Hall of Famers.

It’s an interesting task. From what I found, teams often have at least a future Hall of Fame pitcher or two, and for teams that historically have not, the occasional position player has taken the mound and disqualified them from consideration here, like Ty Cobb with the Tigers in 1925 or Jimmie Foxx with the Phillies in 1945 or George Sisler with the Browns in 1920, 1925, and again in 1926. To rate a possible mention here, a team generally had to have a collection of ordinary pitchers putting up career numbers. Some of the best staffs I found thrived without much offensive support, either.

What follows is my list of 10 of the best pitching staffs without any Hall of Famers. I chose to look at teams between 1920 and 1990, since I didn’t want to consider anyone from the Deadball Era and before or have a list front-loaded with recent or current pitchers. I loosely related my picks to stats like win-loss record, ERA, ERA+ (how the team’s ERA compared to other teams that year), WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) and SO/9 (strikeouts divided by nine innings) though I didn’t adhere rigidly to stats. Where’s the fun in that?

Anyhow, here are my ten:

1. 1942 St. Louis Cardinals: From 1938-1951, St. Louis did not have a Hall of Fame pitcher. No matter. With the exception of 1938, St. Louis kept its ERA under 4.00 and its record above .500 every year of this run. In 1942, the pitching peaked. National League champion St. Louis’s 2.55 ERA and 136 ERA+ would be fine work for one pitcher, let alone a staff. At the top of the rotation, Johnny Beazley went 21-6 and staff ace Mort Cooper finished 22-7 with a 1.78 ERA and a well-deserved National League Most Valuable Player award.

2. 1968 Detroit Tigers: On individual achievement alone, this staff would rate highly due to Denny McLain’s 31 win-season and Mickey Lolich’s triumphant World Series performance. As a staff, these Tigers were also outstanding, posting a 2.71 ERA, 1.118 WHIP and 6.7 SO/9. It’s why Detroit went 103-59 and prevailed in the Series over the Cardinals despite hitting .235 as a team.

3. 1986 New York Mets: One of the deepest pitching staffs in baseball history, the ’86 World Champion Mets starting rotation went a combined 76-30 with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Bobby Ojeda, and Sid Fernandez each finishing with at least 15 wins. Gooden, Darling, and Ojeda also had ERAs below 3.00. In the bullpen, Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell each contributed 20-save seasons.

4. 1944 St. Louis Browns: I challenge anyone reading to name a Browns pitcher from the only year the team went to the World Series before moving to Baltimore and becoming the Orioles. St. Louis’s collection of no-names went 89-65 with a 3.17 ERA and four top starters who combined to go 62-37. The strong pitching compensated for an offense that hit .252 in a hitters park and was devoid of stars, save for shortstop Vern Stephens.

5. 1940 Cincinnati Reds: Like the ’68 Tigers, the Reds won a World Series with several pitchers who could at least be in the Hall of Very Good, namely Derringer, Vander Meer, and Walters. Vander Meer, who pitched back-to-back no hitters in 1938, was injured most of 1940, though Derringer and Walters each won 20 games and accounted for all of the Reds victories in the World Series.

6. 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates just missed the World Series in 1972 with a rotation free of any pitchers close to making Cooperstown. Two of the Pirates’ best starters in 1972, Steve Blass and Dock Ellis may have each had Hall of Fame talent, but Blass mysteriously lost his ability to pitch shortly thereafter, and Ellis’ career was curtailed by substance abuse, though he once pitched a no-hitter on acid.

7. 1985 Los Angeles Dodgers: It would have seemed unlikely in the 1980s that between Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser, and Fernando Valenzuela, none would be enshrined today. In 1985, they did some of their best work, with Gooden winning a Cy Young for the Mets and Dodger teammates Valenzuela finishing 17-10 with a 2.45 ERA and Hershiser going 19-3 with a 2.03 ERA.

8. 1922 St. Louis Browns: The Browns’ 3.38 ERA, 1.556 WHIP, and 2.46 SO/9 would seem pedestrian here, but it was outstanding for the time, when hitters ruled, strikeout totals were low, and ERAs high. St. Louis’s staff ERA+ of 123 is the third-highest total here, behind the ’42 Cardinals and ’40 Reds.

9. 1972 Minnesota Twins: A young Bert Blyleven somehow won 17 games, along with posting a 2.73 ERA and 228 strikeouts for a Twins team that scored just 537 runs, hit .244 and finished 77-77. Blyleven was the best thing going on a pitching staff that had a 2.84 ERA and a 1.166 WHIP. Blyleven also may be the first player discussed in this post to disqualify his team from future consideration here, if he gets an expected call from Cooperstown on Wednesday.

10. 1933 Boston Braves: The Great Depression severely impacted the Braves, who were lucky to break .500 in this time and nearly went out of business. But at the low point of the Depression, a Braves team that hit .252 and scored just 552 runs finished 83-71 largely on the strength of defense and pitching. Boston posted a 2.96 team ERA and featured 18-game winner Ed Brandt and 20-game winner Ben Cantwell.