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When Ruffing was 18, Bennett arranged his first professional contract, with Danville, Illinois, just 140 miles from home in the Class B Three-I League. After one season in Danville, he was sold to the Boston Red Sox. The 19-year-old was hit hard in six appearances and went back to the minors in July 1924. When Boston recalled him in September, he was in the big leagues to stay.
Ruffing joined the Red Sox just as the club plunged into the bleakest period in its history. Boston finished last in each of his five full seasons, losing more than 100 games three times. Sportswriter Stanley Frank wrote that owner Bob Quinn "was operating the Red Sox on a frazzled shoestring."i Quinn’s predecessor, Harry Frazee, had traded or sold most of the team’s best players. Several, including that Ruth kid, went to the Yankees.
Although Ruffing was the Red Sox’s top pitcher, he showed no sign of greatness. Today he would be tagged with the backhanded compliment "inning eater." Relying primarily on a whistling fastball, he posted a better-than-average ERA only once, and then just barely better. His 39 victories and 96 losses gave him a .289 winning percentage, even worse than his team’s sorry .344. After he batted .314 in 1928 while losing a league-leading 25 games, the Sox considered shifting him to the outfield, but found that his mangled foot slowed him down too much.
Owner Quinn faced one of his frequent financial crises in May 1930. Red Sox scout Pat Monahan recalled, "He was real worried. He said he’d have to raise $67,000 in 48 hours to make a payment. ‘If I don’t make it, Pat, they’ll foreclose. I know they will.’" Quinn swapped the 25-year-old Ruffing to the Yankees for backup outfielder Cedric Durst plus $50,000 and, according to Monahan, an additional $50,000 loan from Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert.ii The trade rated only a one-inch story in the New York Times, describing Ruffing as "an in-and-outer."iii
The deal made Ruffing’s career. The turnaround in his fortunes began the first time he took the mound for New York, when Babe Ruth slammed a first-inning home run. Ruffing gave up six runs to the Tigers, but knocked in the deciding runs himself with a single and two RBI. Late in the season he won six straight decisions. He sealed his place on the team with a two-hit shutout over the pennant-bound Philadelphia Athletics in September. He finished 1930 with a 15-5 record for the Yankees; his 4.14 ERA was better than average in the Year of the Hitter. He also batted a career-high .364 with four homers.
Bob Shawkey, a former pitcher who managed the Yankees in 1930, said he had noticed that Ruffing could dominate for four or five innings while he was with the Red Sox, but tired and lost his stuff because he was "pitching all with his arm." Shawkey revamped the pitcher’s delivery.iv That wasn’t the only reason for the dramatic improvement; Joe McCarthy took over as manager the next year, and McCarthy consistently fielded strong defensive teams—a pitcher’s best friend.
When Ruffing turned into a star in New York, some writers questioned whether he had been giving his best effort to the Red Sox. But he remembered, "We had kids just out of college, Class D players. Nobody could win with them."v A young man in his early twenties could easily have become demoralized pitching for a hopeless team, then snapped out of it when he found himself backed by a lineup that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Twenty-two-year-old Lefty Gomez established himself at the front of the Yankees rotation in 1932 as McCarthy began retooling the aging club. With young catcher Bill Dickey, shortstop Frank Crosetti, and speedy outfielder Ben Chapman in the lineup, the Yankees romped to their first pennant in four years. Gomez won 24 games and Ruffing 18, with a 3.09 ERA, second-best in the AL. He led the league with 190 strikeouts.
Ruffing and Gomez gave the Yankees a pair of aces for a decade. Gomez, three years younger, was the better pitcher when healthy. He led the league in ERA twice and in strikeouts and shutouts three times, but suffered recurring bouts of arm trouble. Ruffing usually racked up more innings and complete games; he completed 62 percent of his career starts, while the average AL pitcher finished less than half. [Emphasis added]
Rk Player ERA+ W L WAR IP From To1 Jamie Moyer 104 269 209 44.8 4074.0 1986 20122 Sad Sam Jones 104 229 217 34.5 3883.0 1914 19353 Catfish Hunter 104 224 166 32.1 3449.1 1965 1979 H'4 Jack Morris 105 254 186 39.3 3824.0 1977 1994'5 Frank Tanana 106 240 236 52.6 4188.1 1973 19936 Herb Pennock 106 241 162 38.8 3571.2 1912 1934 H7 Dennis Martinez 106 245 193 45.1 3999.2 1976 19988 Jim Kaat 108 283 237 40.4 4530.1 1959 19839 Burleigh Grimes 108 270 212 44.2 4180.0 1916 1934 H10 David Wells 108 239 157 49.4 3439.0 1987 200711 Red Ruffing 109 273 225 48.6 4344.0 1924 1947 H
Rk Player ERA+ W L WAR IP From To1 Jerry Koosman 110 222 209 53.1 3839.1 1967 19852 Tommy John 111 288 231 56.9 4710.1 1963 19893 Mel Harder 113 223 186 42.2 3426.1 1928 19474 Jack Quinn 114 247 218 53.5 3920.1 1909 19335 Rick Reuschel 114 214 191 64.6 3548.1 1972 19916 Luis Tiant 114 229 172 61.8 3486.1 1964 19827 Wilbur Cooper 116 216 178 47.2 3480.0 1912 19268 Billy Pierce 119 211 169 50.0 3306.2 1945 1964
Interesting list, Dan. I'm just curious, does anyone here believe that Catfish Hunter is a deserving Hall of Famer? Or at least more deserving than Jack Morris?
Is Bunning in the HoM?
But I am somewhat small hall -- i.e. my personal HoF applies something closer to the "writer standards" -- and I am possibly extra tough on pitchers. I don't know why I am more impressed by peak-only hitters than I am by peak-only pitchers, probably due to coming of baseball age in the 70s, but I am. Morris doesn't come close to qualifying for me under either peak or career, but I probably don't give Bunning (or Stieb or Saberhagen) his due. Is Bunning in the HoM?
Player W GS ERA+ W-L% IPRed Ruffing 273 538 109 .548 4344.0Burleigh Grimes 270 497 108 .560 4180.0Jack Morris 254 527 105 .577 3824.0Dennis Martinez 245 562 106 .559 3999.2Jack Powell 245 516 106 .491 4389.0David Wells 239 489 108 .604 3439.0Sad Sam Jones 229 487 104 .513 3883.0Jerry Koosman 222 527 110 .515 3839.1Joe Niekro 221 500 98 .520 3584.1Jerry Reuss 220 547 100 .535 3669.2Mickey Lolich 217 496 104 .532 3638.1Bob Friend 197 497 107 .461 3611.0Claude Osteen 196 488 104 .501 3460.2
Player WAR W L ERA+ OPS+ IP From To Age GS W-L% ERA HR/9 H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB WHIPCatfish Hunter 23.4 111 49 127 77 1471.2 1971 1975 25-29 190 .694 2.65 0.84 7.11 2.13 4.99 2.34 1.027Jack Morris 20.2 94 54 120 82 1324.0 1983 1987 28-32 176 .635 3.38 1.02 7.79 3.09 6.81 2.20 1.209
Hunter, Blyleven, and Morris all rank near the bottom of the list of HOF candidates from the 70s and 80s; they are much more like each other than they are the guys who sailed into the HoF. None was significantly better than a typical starting pitcher given the run support they received,
Rk Yrs From To Age1 Greg Maddux 15 1988 2007 22-412 Jack Morris 11 1980 1992 25-373 Frank Viola 10 1983 1992 23-324 Tom Glavine 9 1988 2007 22-415 Randy Johnson 8 1993 2005 29-416 John Smoltz 7 1990 2006 23-39
This statement cannot possibly be true. Please show your work.
That's a lot less than BB-ref, which has him at +52 wins above average and +91 WAR. If that is all Bert being unclutch, then it knocks his WAR down to +59, still a pretty good candidate. But I don't know how much of the W-L shortfall is on Bert, or is the fault of his bullpens. Bert was so good for so long though that it seems academic. The worst interpretation of him is a lowest tier HOF starter, the best interpretation puts him in the second tier of all-time greats, below guys like Johnson/Clemens/Young/Seaver but right there with Carlton, Ryan, and Perry.
Just with a quick check on BB-ref I see Blyleven had slightly worse run support than his leagues, he got 4.2 runs per game. Look at the AL league averages for 1970-1992, except for 1978-80 when he was in the NL, league average run support was 4.27 per game. So an average pitcher in his decisions maybe goes 267-270, putting Bert 20 wins above average.
"The Hall of Fame contains two types of players. Those who get in because of their accomplishments, and those who have irresistible narratives."
and those who have irresistible narratives
The thing is, I also find Morris's narrative easy to resist.
The thing is, I also find Morris's narrative easy to resist.
Me too....his regular season career is inferior to contemporaries who never got consideration, and his postseason heroics do not put him ahead of say, Orel Hershiser 1988.
You're forgetting his multiple large free-agent contracts. The story practically writes itself.....
We don't bother looking for the third-base coach, or long-time assistant, who could have been Lombardi or Sparky if only given the chance.
It's just the way I remember it. Hunter and Palmer were considered the two best pitchers in the AL at the time
To be fair, this should probably be park-adjusted in some way; Oakland's massive foul territory gives their defense plenty of free outs.
we're better off preferring and validating performance that contributes to more effective actual team results
What does this mean? What stats or information would you use to do this?
And while the sentiment of "this was a great team, it must have had some great players" is understandable, singling out one of those players because he was slightly better than the others is exactly what many of us speak against -- don't hand out individual awards based on the quality of teammates.
He said: “You’ve seen me pitch long enough to know that ERA is not a big deal to me, I care about wins.
So he was at 67% last year. Is the upcoming election (voting revealed in Jan, 2013, I believe) his final year on the ballot? Sorry for the dumb question.
Francesspool today: "Justin Verlander is every bit as good as Jack Morris."
That's because the dominant voices in this group use Hall of Fame discussions as a surrogate for the Hall of Merit, and refuse to acknowledge any difference between them. Not much you can do about it but be glad that their opinions didn't weigh much when Catfish came up for a vote.
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