Hall of Fame Index: Who is the least qualified pitcher in the Hall of Fame Part III
Now that we move to the last four guys selected by the Veterans Committee, our focus changes considerably. In short, none of these guys should be anywhere near the Hall of Fame. I’m on pretty firm footing making that statement and I’m not stating anything that anyone else has said over the years. So, our focus shifts from whether they belong to why they were ever considered in the first place. We can make our comparisons to the other two groups, but even then we will have to take their situations one at a time.
Part of it is the set up of the Veterans Committee itself. It is made up of retired players and managers. Anyone that has ever coached or played any sport on any level has their own opinions on what makes a great player and normally those opinions don’t involve numbers. After all, if we have played the game or coached the game then we don’t need numbers to tell us who is good and who isn’t.
If a player was a teammate or opponent then there is a certain emotional attachment. We might remember a key game where they stepped up and beat our team or helped us beat an opponent. Books have been written about the effects that Frankie Frisch had on the committee. A number of these guys were teammates or opponents of Frisch. No man has done more to soil the Hall of Fame than Frisch.
Joss belongs in his own category. He died suddenly in 1911 shortly after his 31st birthday. It is important to note that the Hall of Fame didn’t always have the ten year rule for a career. So, I suppose that an argument could be made that he would have had a Hall of Fame career had he not perished prematurely. I’m not insensitive to that argument, but it opens a virtual Pandora’s Box. Where does that leave Thurman Munson? Furthermore, there are numerous other situations that could be highlighted that could be comparable.
This isn’t to say that Joss should be out automatically, but we can romanticize players that have their careers cut short. We will look at this career numbers shortly, but we have to remember that he didn’t have a decline phase in his career. So, we have to take more care when evaluating those numbers. To put it bluntly, if Mike Trout suddenly stopped playing tomorrow we would likely try to find an exception for him because he’s already earned his place in history. An argument for a Joss presupposes what he would have done if given the opportunity. There’s a long line of players that sentiment describes.
The others don’t have a leg to stand on or a pot to pee in. They are just short of what they would need to get in. So, after looking at peak value we will take a look at them one to one to decipher what the voters must have been thinking when they put them in. Believe it or not, in most cases there actually was some thought behind it.
The answer to the question in the headline seems to be an easy one. I’m not quite sure what the committee was thinking on Haines, but it must have been the fact that he was a teammate of Frisch and he was at least somewhat good. As we will see with the pitching numbers, he checks off some minimum boxes as he has over 200 wins and a fairly healthy winning percentage. Still, there is nothing special there.
Marquard has fame on his side, but fame is a fickle thing. In 1912 he set the big league record with the most consecutive victories without a loss. They even made a Broadway play about it called “Rube Marquard Wins.” In a three year period he was a combined 73-28. That’s pretty spectacular, but he was a combined 128-149 the rest of the way. Were those three seasons enough to overcome the rest? He had 17.8 BWAR in those three seasons. That leaves 9.6 combined BWAR in the other seven seasons of his prime.
Finally, you get Gomez. He was a part of five World Series teams and had some decent individual honors. He won two ERA titles, led the league in wins twice, and strikeouts three times. The question is whether he would have done any of these things had he not been a New York Yankee. He might have been as proficient in strikeouts, but not likely in the other two categories.
Looking at these numbers in the aggregate obscures a lot. For instance, we know how mediocre Marquard was for most of this career, but between 1911 and 1913 he was seen as one of the top pitchers in the league. If we made the adjustments from WAApct in just those three seasons we might see something very different.
Joss was legitimately good. He has the highest WAApct of any pitcher selected by the Veterans Committee. The question will always be whether he did enough during those eight or nine seasons to overcome the absence of more. That might come down to the difference between being really good and special.
If Gomez had put up these rate statistics in two or three more prime seasons we would be having a different conversation. I’m not sure there is anything Haines could do to really change the trajectory. Both he and Marquard were tragically average overall. This has to be the ultimate reason why they come up short.
The absence of numbers for Joss doesn’t necessarily hurt him per se, but you do have to ask what he did to leave such a lasting impression. At least Gomez can claim to be a clutch postseason performer and that could add something to his lackluster index score. Haines has a case as well, but the peripheral numbers tend to point towards luck.
The guy that sticks out is Marquard. We have to remember that his playoff performances came during the Dead Ball Era so his 3.07 ERA is not particularly special. We wouldn’t call him a choke artist, but he definitely didn’t add anything either. Let’s take a look at the Cy Young points and allow me to indulge myself with one of those Player A/B tests.
BWAR CY Young Points
|Top 10||Top 5||CY||Total|
I’ve added in a new pitcher here, so we can compare to Addie Joss and go with the what if question. So, without further ado I will look at Joss and this mystery pitcher. Both careers ended in similar circumstances and they were nearly the same age when their careers ended, so we can wax on about what might have been.
Pitcher A led the league in ERA twice and wins once. Pitcher B led the league in ERA once and strikeouts on two different occasions. Both players had different illnesses that interrupted their last season. You could look at the win totals and ERA+ and definitely see the difference between Joss (Pitcher A) and this other pitcher, but fans of that pitcher would argue he was just beginning to come into his own. He won his ERA title in his last full season and had a 1.90 ERA when he went down. He was coming off two consecutive strikeout titles.
The point is that I could probably find a few players that could approach Joss’s story. I just happened to pick the one I was most familiar with. J.R. Richard (Pitcher B) might had been a Hall of Famer if he could have pitched into his late thirties. Maybe he would have continued to pitch like he did from 1978 forward and been one of the best pitchers of our generation. Maybe he would have fallen off and been long forgotten. That’s a large part of human tragedy.