Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tom Glavine and the Hall of Overrated

Tom Glavine went as high as his teammates would take him.  (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)

Today, Tom Glavine joins his long-time teammate Greg Maddux, as well as Frank Thomas, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa into the Hall of Fame.  Glavine's 305 wins and .600 winning percentage are certainly nothing to scoff at, but those numbers may have been more due to the teams he was on rather than his own talent.

As my Gal For All Seasons so eloquently detailed in her recent post called "The Pity Vote", the former Brave (and I guess you have to call him a former Met as well) wasn't as good as his numbers say he was.

Let's take a look at some of the points she brought up in "The Pity Vote" and add a few of my own.

  • Almost half of Glavine's wins (149 out of 305) came when his teams scored six or more runs.  On 226 occasions, Glavine received that type of run support, or slightly over ten times per season.
  • In 22 seasons in the big leagues, Glavine was pinned with a no-decision or loss a whopping 77 times when his teams scored at least half a dozen runs.  That's three-and-a-half times a season in which he couldn't get a win with excellent run support.
  • Glavine's teams scored two runs or less in 176 of his 682 starts.  The southpaw won just 26 of those games.  By comparison, Curt Schilling won 24 games when he received two runs of support or fewer.  That's just two wins shy of Glavine's total.  However, Schilling did this despite making 246 fewer starts than Glavine.  For the record, Schilling has been eligible for the Hall of Fame for the past two seasons and has yet to receive more than 38.8% of the votes.
  • Speaking of Schilling, the 20-year veteran was one of the best postseason pitchers of all time, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.968 WHIP in 19 career starts.  Glavine, on the other hand, went 14-16 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.273 WHIP.  It should also be noted that Glavine's 16 postseason losses are the most by any pitcher in the history of the game.
  • Glavine had five 20-win seasons, going 103-40 in those campaigns.  That means he went 202-163 in his other 17 seasons, which averages to a 12-10 record over those 17 years in which he didn't win 20 games.  That's not exactly what I would call Hall of Fame-caliber for the majority of his career.
  • In the year he set a career high in victories (1993), Glavine posted a 1.365 WHIP.  Glavine and fellow lefty Andy Pettitte are the only pitchers since 1980 to post a WHIP higher than 1.35 in a year they won 20+ games.  In addition, Glavine is the only pitcher since 1950 to win 22 or more games in a single season and have a 1.35 WHIP in the same year.  That's over six decades of baseball, kids.
  • Finally, while we're on the topic of base runners, there are only 14 pitchers in history (since 1900) to allow 6,000 base runners over their careers.  Tom Glavine is one of them, but he pitched the fewest innings of those 14 hurlers, tossing 4413.1 frames.  In fact, the only pitcher on this list within 150 innings of Glavine is Jim Kaat, who, by the way, IS NOT IN THE HALL OF FAME!

"It's okay, Greg.  We were the best pitchers on the Braves.  Tommy just rode our coattails."  (Photo by John Bazemore/AP)

Tom Glavine's high win total was a product of the teams he was on.  They scored lots of runs when he was on the mound, making it so easy to win that even his brother, Mike, could have earned victories in those games.  In the five seasons Glavine won 20 or more games, the Braves' offense ranked in the top four in runs scored every year.  Meanwhile, when he was a Met from 2003 to 2007, the Mets' offense ranked in the top four in runs scored just twice (2006, 2007).  Not surprisingly, Glavine went 28-15 in those two seasons.  Without a good offense behind him in his first three seasons as a Met, his record was just 33-41.

Pitchers who earn enshrinement in the Hall of Fame should be the dominant pitchers of their era.  No one who allows as many base runners as Glavine did in as few innings as he pitched should get his ticket punched to Cooperstown.  Jim Kaat and his 1.259 career WHIP is still waiting for his plaque.  So is Tommy John, who allowed 6,479 base runners in 4710.1 innings for a 1.283 WHIP.  But Tom Glavine, with his 1.314 lifetime WHIP, has his Hall of Fame plaque ready to be put on display.

Likewise, Hall of Fame pitchers should have been clutch performers in the postseason.  It's true that Glavine was the winning pitcher in Atlanta's only World Series-clinching victory in 1995.  However, it's also true that no pitcher in postseason history has been saddled with an "L" more than Glavine has.  But don't tell that to the people ogling at Glavine's newly installed plaque, one of whom might be Curt Schilling, who was a far better pitcher when the games mattered the most but still needs to buy his own ticket to get into Cooperstown.

Tom Glavine was never the best pitcher on the Braves (Maddux and Smoltz outperformed him in the '90s) and quite possibly wasn't the best pitcher on the Mets when he toiled in Flushing (Steve Trachsel was 44-35 as Glavine's teammate from 2003 to 2006, while Glavine was just 48-48 during those seasons).  But none of that mattered to the baseball writers who voted him into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

For 22 seasons, Tom Glavine was a very good pitcher.  Now, he will forever be known as a Hall of Fame pitcher.  It's just too bad there isn't a Hall of Overrated in baseball.  Glavine would have been a first-ballot inductee there as well.

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