by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
January 23, 2007
For two years in a row, Scott and Asher have each voted Robin Roberts a "2"
while I've voted him a "0" for the
Baseball Evolution Hall of Fame.
It's time for the justification of this trend. Firstly, I'll look at the
starting pitchers currently in our Hall. How does Robin Roberts compare
with the least deserving of those that we have elected?
Bob Caruthers is probably the
weakest starting pitcher of our lot. Yet he was not only a great pitcher.
He also boasts a career .391 OBP and 508 runs scored as an outfielder.
Caruthers' ability to help himself is part of the reason he has a huge edge in
winning percentage - .688 to .539. Think about that: Roberts pitched
nearly 2,000 more innings than Caruthers, yet was only able to win 68 more
What about strictly pitchers? Fergie Jenkins, Don Drysdale, Clark
Griffith, and Vic Willis probably form the lower echelon of our Hall.
Jenkins and Roberts each played on mediocre teams, looking simply at the
aggregate winning percentage of the teams that they played for. Both were
control artists who gave up the longball when they missed. Very similar
pitchers indeed, but Jenkins comes out ahead in just about every category.
Roberts has two more career victories, a better walk rate, and pitched more
innings than Jenkins did. But Jenkins had a higher win percentage, ERA+,
and strikeout ratio, plus a lower ERA, WHIP, and opponent's BA, OBP, and SLG.
More importantly, Jenkins pitched in extreme hitter's parks while Roberts played
in slight pitcher's parks.
Drysdale pitched in roughly the same era as Roberts, so they should be easy
to compare. While Drysdale probably benefited from his home stadium more
than any pitcher in baseball history (2.52/3.44 home/road split), his road ERA
was still better than Roberts' home ERA (3.54/3.85). Obviously Roberts had
a longer career, but these pitchers led the NL in pitching runs three times
each, making them about equal in terms of dominant seasons.
Roberts' stats compare reasonably well to Clark Griffith's, but Griffith
spent 20 years as a manager and 36 years as an owner, giving him some bonus
points in my estimation. He also trounces Roberts in winning percentage
and ERA+, as many pitchers do.
Vic Willis has similar era-adjusted numbers to Roberts. I will tend to
give the edge to the player with the better overall stats in such cases.
Willis and his 78 point edge in ERA gets the nod.
Let's also look at Ted Lyons and newly-elected Red Faber, mostly because
they're fellow 4,000+ inning pitchers, but also because Scott and Asher aren't
particularly high on the pair.
Ted Lyons has comparable numbers across the board with Roberts, excepting a
better ERA+ and much better batting stats. But Ted Lyons also missed three
years at the end of his career due to World War II. Granted, Lyons would
have been 42, 43, and 44 years old in those seasons. However, Lyons was
coming off a season in which he completed all 20 of his starts, pitching only
Sunday doubleheaders. He went 14-6 with a league-best 2.10 ERA.
Lyons threw a knuckleball, and it's not unusual for knuckleballers to succeed
well into their 40's. It seems reasonable that Ted could have surpassed
Roberts in both wins and innings pitched had he not served with the marines.
Faber similarly missed time in 1918 due to World War I, just when he was
putting together his best season ever (1.23 ERA in 80.2 IP). His 1921 and
1922 seasons were more dominant than Roberts' 1952 and 1953 seasons were.
Robin also allowed nearly three times as many homers as Faber did over their
That brings us to Nolan Ryan. Ryan walked more batters than anyone else
in history while Robin Roberts allowed more home runs than any pitcher ever.
Both pitchers had fairly low career winning percentages and adjusted ERA.
But Ryan has the distinction of striking out the most batters in history - and
it's not even close. Roberts has no such distinction, and must play second
fiddle to Ryan in terms of Hall of Fame honors.
Next, let's examine some of the starting pitchers that we haven't enshrined,
beginning with some of Roberts' contemporaries.
Harry Breechen received no support in our 2006 balloting. His 1948
season matches up with anything Roberts has to offer, and blows Robin away when
it comes to career ERA+ and winning percentage. Breechen also has an
incredible World Series ticker of 4-1 0.83. I'm not going to say that he's
more deserving than Robin, but if Robin gets elected to the Hall, I'm pretty
sure that Harry has to come along too.
Billy Pierce sort of represents the midpoint between Breechen and Roberts.
He wasn't as effective as Breechen, nor did he hang around as long as Roberts.
Pierce and Roberts were each second fiddle in the 50's; Pierce to Whitey Ford in
the AL and Roberts to Warren Spahn in the NL. Looking at the decade as a
whole, Pierce (230 pitching runs) and Roberts (240 PR) are practically equals.
One is as deserving of enshrinement as the other, and Pierce is no longer
eligible for election.
But Pierce and Breechen are hardly the best pitchers out there who aren't in
our Hall of Fame. In fact, there are better pitchers who have already
fallen off our Hall of Fame ballots. Eppa Rixey is chief among these.
Comparable to Red Faber, Eppa put up similar numbers to Roberts despite missing
a season-and-a-half to WWI. They were both good pitchers in what were weak
eras for pitchers.
The same can be said of Dizzy Trout. In terms of overall performance,
he beats Roberts, but some of his most dominant seasons did come during war
years. Brett Saberhagen had more great seasons than Roberts did, and fewer
poor ones. The only argument I see for Roberts is his four consecutive
seasons leading the NL in wins and his five consecutive ones leading in IP.
But I simply don't understand why a dominant 5-year stretch is more remarkable
than five dominant seasons spread out over the course of a career.
Will White, Silver King, and Joe McGinnity had careers on par with Robin's,
but I'll buy the argument that we've got enough pitchers enshrined from the
1890-1910 period already.
I'm not going to bother discussing the superior pitchers still left on the
ballot. Stan Coveleski, Hal Newhouser, and Tommy Bridges are so clearly
better than Roberts that it would waste everyone's time to belabor the point.
To summarize, the fact that Robin Roberts isn't as good as any of our current
inductees should not disqualify him for or Hall of Fame. Cooperstown
features dozens more pitchers than we do, and we may decide to elect more as we
weigh the value of pitchers versus position players.
The fact that at least two unenshrined pitchers from Robin's era have similar
credentials to Mr. Roberts does not rule the man out either. The 40's and
50's are very underrepresented decades in our Hall of Fame, and all three might
deserve to get in.
The fact that there are superior pitchers both on and off the ballot
similarly should not clinch his exclusion. I wouldn't want Cooperstown to
shut out all pitchers who aren't as good as Bert Blyleven.
But when you consider together that Robin Roberts is not superior to any
pitcher we've currently got in with the idea that he may not even be the best
outsider from his era, and that there are plenty of pitchers as deserving who
can never be inducted, and that there are still a few others more deserving that
have yet to be inducted, I struggle to see why we should put this man in our
Hall of Fame.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.