Beyond ERA+: Why Rick Reuschel Had Hall of Fame Value

1988 Score #519 - Rick Reuschel - Courtesy of COMC.com

It’s been some time since I wrote a “Let’s Talk About” piece. This time I bring you a pitcher who WAR would have you believe is perhaps the most underrated player in Major League history.

Let’s talk about Rick Reuschel.

Now, first let’s acknowledge the sniff test. When Rally first made his WAR spreadsheets available (it later became Baseball-Reference WAR), Reuschel ranked surprisingly high. I had never once considered Reuschel for the Hall. Even after some major revisions to Rally’s original WAR formula, Reuschel still ranks 32nd all time in pitching WAR and 97th overall. The Hall of Stats adjusts WAR with more emphasis on peak value. Reuschel rankings:

  • 99th among all players in history
  • 85th among players eligible for the Hall of Fame (84th if you remove Pete Rose)
  • 30th among all pitchers in history
  • 23rd among all pitchers eligible for the Hall of Fame
  • 13th among eligible players not in the Hall of Fame
  • 6th among eligible players not in the Hall of Fame who are not currently on the ballot, behind Pete Rose, Lou Whitaker, Bill Dahlen, Bobby Grich, and Kevin Brown (again, fifth if you don’t count Rose)

According to WAR and the Hall of Stats, Rick Reuschel was a top 100 player. That was—and still is—a revelation. When I create lists of the best players outside of the Hall, I still hesitate a bit before listing Reuschel’s name. So, what gives?

Traditionally Similar Players

Seven pitchers in the post-integration era (1947–present) threw between 3248 and 3848 innings (within 300 of Reuschel) with an ERA+ between 110 and 118. Sorted by WAR, Reuschel leads the list, followed by Luis Tiant (who is in the Hall of Stats). The next two—Jim Bunning an Dennis Eckersley—are Hall of Famers (and not particularly borderline ones). Jerry Koosman (who sits on the Hall of Fame borderline) ranks fifth, followed by Larry Jackson (who isn’t as close as Koosman to the Hall of Stats, but ranks near pitchers like Jim Kaat and Dennis Martinez). The list finishes with Curt Simmons, who is way off in terms of WAR and Hall Rating.

Rk Player WAR ERA+ IP Defense UER%
1 Rick Reuschel 64.6 114 3548.1 -69.5 11.0%
2 Luis Tiant 61.8 114 3486.1 27.1 8.6%
3 Dennis Eckersley 58.6 116 3285.2 -1.2 7.5%
4 Jim Bunning 56.7 115 3760.1 3.8 10.5%
5 Jerry Koosman 53.1 110 3839.1 -5.5 10.9%
6 Larry Jackson 48.7 113 3262.2 0.6 12.2%
7 Curt Simmons 38.2 111 3348.1 33.4 15.0%

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool UsedGenerated 2/6/2013.

At the very least, this table tells me that pitchers like Reuschel should at least be considered for the Hall of Fame. After all, the list of seven does include two already in and one who is often considered on the borderline (Tiant). For whatever reason, Reuschel was never thought of that way, receiving a total of two Hall of Fame votes.

Why is Reuschel at the top of this list? What isn’t ERA capturing? Why the huge discrepancy between Reuschel and Simmons?

The Raw Numbers

Reuschel: 214–191 (.528), 3.37 ERA, 114 ERA+, 3548 IP
Simmons: 193–183 (.513), 3.54 ERA, 111 ERA+, 3348 IP

Do these look like pitchers who would have a 26.4 WAR discrepancy? Not on the surface.

Unearned Runs

In the table above, I added a couple columns for my own numbers that I pulled from the Baseball-Reference Play Index and their historical WAR downloads. Let’s talk about unearned runs.

11.0% of the runs Reuschel allowed were unearned. This seems pretty insignificant because the league average was 11.2%—incredibly close. Meanwhile, Simmons’ unearned run percentage is 15.0%. The league average was 11.9%. This is a rather significant difference.

This would lead me to believe that Reuschel played for average defenses while Simmons played for weak ones. But to assume that would be to acknowledge that the only way to measure defense is by number of errors. Unearned runs only occur as the result of an error. We know that there is a lot more to defense than errors. There’s range, arm strength, double plays, and more.

Total Zone

Total Zone, the defensive component of Baseball-Reference’s WAR, captures all of these and they are factored into WAR. So, what were the defenses behind these pitchers really like? That’s the other column I added to the table above.

It turns out the Simmons actually played in front of good defenses (33 runs above average) while Reuschel played in front of historically bad defenses (70 runs below average). Only 11 pitchers in history played in front of worse defenses than Reuschel—and several of those pitchers were active 100 or more years ago. What does this do to Reuschel and Simmons’ WAR? Ten runs roughly equate to a win. Their defenses have a 103 run difference. So, just based on the defenses they pitched in front of, these pitchers are separated by ten WAR.

Who were the culprits? I used the Play Index to find the fielders for every team that Reuschel pitched 100 innings for in a season. Here are the ten best and ten worst.

The Worst The Best
Player Rfield Player Rfield
Rick Monday -77 Barry Bonds 32
Jerry Morales -52 Tony Pena 20
Jose Cardenal -43 Sid Bream 17
Bill Madlock -34 Mike LaValliere 15
Dave Rosello -34 Matt Williams 13
Jerry Martin -30 Robby Thompson 13
Bobby Murcer -29 Jose Lind 12
Billy Williams -25 Ernie Riles 10
Vic Harris -18 Sam Khalifa 10
Don Kessinger -17 3 tied with 9

I wanted to make sure that the Total Zone numbers didn’t look out of whack. The ten players on the “Worst” list combined for three Gold Gloves. One was by Bobby Murcer back when he was with the Yankees. The other two were by Don Kessinger back when he was much younger. The numbers show that he was actually very good in one of those seasons (1969), but dropped off after that. He was no help to Reuschel by the time they played together. The first two players on the “Best” list combined for twelve Gold Gloves. Honestly, I think Total Zone does a pretty good job.

So, here are some reasons why Rick Reuschel is better than we seem to think…

  1. Part of it is unexplainable. Reuschel’s raw numbers are actually nearly Hall-worthy. He had a .528 winning percentage and 114 ERA+. Nolan Ryan had a .526 winning percentage and an ERA+ of 112 (I understand Ryan pitched longer, but still… this is a little surprising).
  2. He played for some pretty terrible teams. His teams combined for a winning percentage of .463. This doesn’t lead to a lot of wins, awards, or publicity.
  3. He didn’t give up a lot of unearned runs. He was right at the league average. Considering the defense he played in front of, you’d think he would have given up more. If looking at things in terms of runs allowed rather than earned runs allowed, Reuschel would look much better.
  4. He played in front of some horrendous defenses. Phil Niekro must sympathize with him. If you think about how bad his defenses were and how many unearned runs they must have led to, you realize that the actual number of unearned runs Reuschel allowed was probably unbelievably low. He helped this by not walking many players and not allowing many home runs. Those are easy ways to be beaten and Reuschel didn’t let his opponents do it.

I don’t think I’ve ever publicly said “Rick Reuschel should be in the Hall of Fame.” I was still uncomfortable with why his WAR-based numbers looked so good. But now I know. And I think I’m ready to say it.

Rick Reuschel should be in the Hall of Fame. He wasn’t flashy. He wasn’t famous. But he provided more value than the average Hall of Famer. That, to me, makes him worthy of the Hall of Fame.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
77 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
7 years ago

Neutralized pitching record is easy. You take IP/9. That’s your number of decisions. Then you take 100/ERA+ (which is really ERA-; that’s the stat we should use, since it puts the correct thing in the numerator and denominator). Then we do a little Pythagorean formula for Run Support, where 100/ERA+ = x. It looks like this: 100^2/(100^2+x^2) We then multiply this by IP/9 (which was the number of decisions), and we get a neutralized won-lost record. For Reuschel, we get 394.2 decisions (meaning that he actually got 11 more decisions than we would expect). 100/114~88 100^2/(100^2+88^2)=.563 (meaning that Reuschel’s winning… Read more »

Doug
Doug
7 years ago

Nice piece, Adam. Aside from pitching on lousy teams, Reuschel’s HOF issues could be that he just doesn’t look like a HOF pitcher, as evidenced by the baseball card image. Does he look like Seaver dragging his knee in the dirt or Marichal or whatever pitcher you could name with a memorable delivery? No, he actually looks more like a guy playing catch with his son. Of course, you could well say as much about Greg Maddux. But, you don’t because he has the results to back it up. As with ducks, I suppose the explanation for Reuschel’s HOF slight… Read more »

Chuck
Chuck
7 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Wait…so you’re saying voters “overlooked” Reuschel because he was fat?

Doug
Doug
7 years ago
Reply to  Chuck

Well, that isn’t what I said exactly, but it’s probably part of it. If you’re a traditional (i.e. non-sabermetric) voter, you first look at his numbers and see he won 200, but he also lost almost 200 and pitched almost 20 years. Good control but wasn’t a big strikeout guy. Made it to the post-season a few times but didn’t really do anything memorable on that stage. So, that’s your first pass. If you give him a second pass, it’s probably more on the subjective level – in your mind’s eye, can you see him as a memorable pitcher (i.e.… Read more »

Tim Pea
Tim Pea
7 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Reuschel really wasn’t that fat. He did look out of shape, made worse by tight uniforms. I think CC Sabathia is quite a bit fatter than RR.

Scott Silveira
Scott Silveira
7 years ago
Reply to  Chuck

Lon Simmons, the voice of the San Francisco Giants in the 70’s, once said that Reuschel looked like the kid who no one would let play on his side at recess. He was homely. He played on bad Cubs teams, and when he was traded to the Yankees, for a shot at glory, he seriously hurt his arm. You need good timing, as the Beach Boys said. His delivery was actually quite similar to Walter Johnson’s. He couldn’t throw as hard as Johnson, likely, but both pitchers threw a ton of innings. It’s surprising you don’t see more deliveries like… Read more »

Devon
7 years ago

You make a good case. I’m surprised you didn’t mention his FIP, which was 3.22. Over the same period (1972-1991), Tom Seaver had a 3.23 FIP. Tom Terrific’s consider a 70’s star, while Rick’s generally forgotten. In fact, Reuschel’s FIP ranks 14th among pitchers with 1500+ IP from ’72-’91, and only 3 of the guys ahead of him, pitched more innings during that period.

Adam Darowski
7 years ago
Reply to  Devon

Thanks. I try not to just use stats like FIP. I’d rather explain them. I think I did that here:

he actual number of unearned runs Reuschel allowed was probably unbelievably low. He helped this by not walking many players and not allowing many home runs. Those are easy ways to be beaten and Reuschel didn’t let his opponents do it.

His FIP is certainly part of what made him valuable. I don’t think FIP alone tells the story, so I try to explain it a bit more.

BryanM
BryanM
7 years ago

Adam , terrific piece. I am a big believer in RA /9 as a shorthand look at a pitcher’s effectiveness and have come to the conclusion that ERA Is essentially useless as a measure , since RA9 is available, closely connected and more meaningful. Some additional thoughts. The pitcher’s job is to prevent runs, not earned runs. ERA favors weaker pitchers , since the guys who are less effective in getting 3 outs in an inning will also be , generally, less effective in getting 4 ERA , alone among the major stats, is based on a counterfactual, not what… Read more »

oneblankspace
oneblankspace
7 years ago

When the Cardinals hired Dave Parker as a hitting coach, one of the reasons stated was that he could get his name in front of the Hall of Fave voters, er, Hall of Fame voters. Perhaps Reuschel should have done something like that.

Jason Z
7 years ago

On June 28, 1977 the Cubs beat the Montreal Expos 4-2 in front of 18,955 fans at the brand new Olympic Stadium. Reuschel moved his record to 11-2 on the season. Meanwhile the Cubs won their 8th game in a row, had the best record in baseball and were 8.5 games ahead of St. Louis in the classic NL East. From this date forward, only the expansion Blue Jays, the hapless A’s as destroyed by Charlie Finley and the soon to be resurgent Brewers were worse than the Cubbies. The Cubs played .681 ball for 69 games. Than they played… Read more »

Dr. Remulak
Dr. Remulak
7 years ago

This piece reinforced my support of Tiant as HOF worthy. Reuschel: close, but as El Tiante might say, no cigar.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

Great piece, Adam. HHS needs more of these long essays, IMHO. 🙂 I’m still not sure I support Reuschel for the Hall, but he deserves consideration. Besides what’s been mentioned, I think his image also suffers from the lack of a defining team/era identity, and the unusual mid-career value gap. Taking the second point first: From age 23-31, Reuschel averaged almost 5 WAR per year. But from 32-35, Reuschel totaled just 3.1 WAR. Since 1901, 23 retired pitchers had 55 to 75 WAR (Reuschel +/- 10, roundly). Only 5 of those (including R.R.) had less than 6 WAR from age… Read more »

Adam Darowski
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Reuschel is tough. I mean, he obviously wasn’t a traditional Hall of Famer. His case is incredibly complex. You really need to analyze him to say he’s a Hall of Famer. Most don’t. Most feel that you should “know” a player is a Hall of Famer. That’s fine. That’s what the Hall of Fame can be. I, of course, feel differently. That’s why I made my own place. That 3.1 WAR from age 32-35 is pretty shocking. But if you look it was in 261 innings. That’s a season. So, three years in his early-to-mid 30s were represented by what… Read more »

Brooklyn Mick
Brooklyn Mick
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

I’ve been a longtime supporter of Kitty, but now I’m not so sure. I think most people who support him are thinking in terms of his longevity, but the fact is that of his 25 year career, he accumulated 78% of his career WAR during his 7year-peak WAR. It’s pretty astounding that during the other 18 years he accumulated only 10 WAR. That and the 108 ERA+ don’t really make his case very attractive. Tommy John might make more sense. The numbers alone are borderline [103 Hall of Stats rating :)], but I also give him some credit for being… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

I agree with all of this, Adam, except I think that distinguishing injury problems from a drop in value is pointless in general and especially so with pitchers. I’d guess that, outside of luck on batted balls, the vast majority of variation in a pitcher’s performance over time can be chalked up to health. I like Reuschel a lot — I was living outside Chicago in the mid-’70s and followed the Cubs pretty closely, especially in ’77 when they started off hot and Reuschel won 20. Among the 102 pitchers with 1,000 IP during the 1970s, Reuschel ranks 9th in… Read more »

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

Adam, Amongst more recent pitchers, I’d probably support Hershiser, Cone, and Saberhagen (in that order) ahead of Reuschel – better peaks, more “big” moments Schilling is 1st, but will probably get in within 4-6 years. I realize you’ve done the serious research above, whilst I am going mainly on instinct,so I’ll give your informed opinions above a lot of resprct. Kevin Appier, Kevin Brown,and Dave Steib also deserve re-appraisal from a wider audience (than us). Amonng older pitchers, probably Tommy John, Wes Ferrell, and my favorite “out-of-nowhere” deadball-era candidate: Ed Reulbach – not a long career, but it’s hard to… Read more »

JasonZ
7 years ago

Jim Kaat won the gold glove every year from 1962-77.

He also had a career dWar of -0.1.

Greg Maddux won it every year from 90-08 except 03.

His career dWar is 0.1

Adam Darowski
7 years ago
Reply to  JasonZ

Well, pitchers don’t have defensive WAR. I’m actually digging into that, pertaining to Kaat. Some discussion has started here:

http://www.hallofstats.com/articles/50-best-not-in-hof-8-best-not-in-hos

I just don’t know if
a. his defensive value is ignored or
b. his defensive value is actually rolled up into his pitching value.

bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

I’ll say what I said in that discussion that you linked to: unless someone pushes me off this belief, I think a pitcher’s defense is embedded in his pitching value. First off, I think it’s important to remember that a pitcher doesn’t have nearly as many opportunities defensively as other infielders, sort of like a first baseman. So, if pitcher fielding totals were computed, I doubt they would be that high or that low because, like WAR itself, defensive runs saved is a counting stat and is dependent on how many opportunities you get to field balls. That’s why you… Read more »

Jason Z
7 years ago
Reply to  bstar

What effect if any should a pitchers pick off ability
have on the equation?

I will just throw out a name form the expansion Blue Jays.

Jerry Garvin. According to Frank Messer, Bill White and the Scooter, Phil Rizzuto…he had a great move. They said it so often, it became a cliche in my mind.

Andy Pettite is a contemporary example that comes to mind.

My question is how much weigh should it be given?

mosc
mosc
7 years ago
Reply to  bstar

See, this is one thing I always point to with dWAR and how stupid it is. Left fielders and pitchers have similar impact DEFENSIVELY on a game yet left fielder’s dWAR is all over the place (some high, a lot of low ones). Pitcher’s DWAR is always close to zero. Most pitchers are terrible fielders who cost their team runs with their defense. It’s become so expected that we don’t even count it against them anymore. As a result, good defensive pitchers are not valued correctly and furthermore a lot of LF-RF-1B-DH type guys are murdered by DWAR in comparison.

Tim Pea
Tim Pea
7 years ago

Adam this is a fantastic piece! I am not big on new stats because it seems they are often used to pick the bones of very good players. I like to see someone reading between the lines to find something that hasn’t been talked about. I’m a Cub fan so I knew RR was special, but I learned things I didn’t know. A very fantastic piece!!!! HEY, a stat you might have overlooked. RR had 46 career walks as a batter. The best hitting pitchers in the game today, Zambrano and Owings have a combined 18. RR might not have… Read more »

Adam Darowski
7 years ago
Reply to  Tim Pea

Tim, thanks for the kind words. Yes, Reuschel was somewhat useful at the plate—compared to other pitchers. He clocks in at 1.6 WAR at the plate. Obviously, that’s over a replacement PITCHER.

He also pinch ran on occasion, which is remarkable given his physique.

donburgh
donburgh
7 years ago

Great piece, Adam.

It’s amazing to me that all of the best fielders by Rfield were from the second half of Reuschel’s career, including six Pirates. (Sammy Khalifa!!!) However with that said…

Reuschel and Lind were never teammates. Reuschel was traded on August 21st, while Lind made his debut on the 28th. Probably a limitation of the Play Index.

Mike L
Mike L
7 years ago

Adam, this is one of the best pieces I’ve read on HSS. Well reasoned, well researched and well presented. As a Yankee fan, I was disappointed in him and that may have colored my memory, but this puts him in a new light. Nice job.

Doug
Editor
7 years ago

Reuschel’s 36 combined wins in his age 39 and age 40 seasons are the 4th most since 1901. Rk Player W From To Age G GS CG SHO L W-L% IP ERA ERA+ Tm 1 Warren Spahn 42 1960 1961 39-40 78 67 39 8 23 .646 530.1 3.26 109 MLN 2 Phil Niekro 40 1978 1979 39-40 88 86 45 5 38 .513 676.1 3.14 129 ATL 3 Eddie Plank 37 1915 1916 39-40 79 57 40 9 26 .587 504.0 2.20 136 SLM-SLB 4 Rick Reuschel 36 1988 1989 39-40 68 68 9 2 19 .655 453.1 3.04… Read more »

Adam Darowski
7 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Interestingly, his WAR is tied (with Spahn) for 26th.

Doug
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

Here’s that list. 26th spot equates to 6.0 WAR. Rk Player WAR From To Age G GS CG SHO W L W-L% IP Tm 1 Phil Niekro 16.6 1978 1979 39-40 88 86 45 5 40 38 .513 676.1 ATL 2 Dazzy Vance 10.3 1930 1931 39-40 65 60 32 6 28 28 .500 477.1 BRO 3 John Smoltz 9.9 2006 2007 39-40 67 67 3 1 30 17 .638 437.2 ATL 4 Jamie Moyer 9.8 2002 2003 39-40 67 67 5 2 34 15 .694 445.2 SEA 5 Dennis Martinez 9.8 1994 1995 39-40 52 52 10 5 23… Read more »

Tim Pea
Tim Pea
7 years ago
Reply to  Doug

More great stuff Doug, I saw those really good years RR had with the Giants in ’88 and ’89. Those were good teams with Roger Craig managing and Will Clark at 1B. I think it backs up Adam’s point about how many bad clubs RR played for and pitched well for before that.

William Miller
7 years ago

Adam, Another excellent piece of research, analysis and writing. Your case for Reuschel is objectively very strong. I still see him as a borderline case for The Hall, but his case should certainly be studied carefully by future Vet Committees.
Nice work,
Bill

Cyril Morong
Cyril Morong
7 years ago

Great post. I hope people keep looking at Reuschel. Here is something I posted a few years ago

http://cybermetric.blogspot.com/2009/06/rick-reuschel-for-hall-of-fame.html

Just a couple of stats I mentioned

-His strike-out-to-walk ratio was 31% better than the league average

-He gave up 21.6% fewer HRs than average

Also, the idea of being under rated is interesting. Maybe a study comparing a guy’s Hall of Fame votes to his WAR or something like that

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  Cyril Morong

Wow — that HR rate is an eye-opener, Cyril. I would not have guessed it just from looking at his stats. His career rate of 0.56 HR/9 did not strike me as great, considering he did not pitch at all in the “steroids era.”

But I just checked his contemporaries, and it is outstanding, after all. Out of 61 pitchers with at least 2,000 IP during Reuschel’s career (1972-91), only 3 had a lower HR/9. And at least 2 of those 3 had some help from their parks, while Reuschel’s HR% was 20% higher at home.

Cyril Morong
Cyril Morong
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Right, the park issue probably only adds to Reuschel’s case

bstar
7 years ago

Excellent stuff with this article, Adam. I’ve always loved Reuschel and to me he’s a Hall of Famer, period. I’m of the opinion that a player can be a Hall of Famer without a strong narrative attached to his career, but I guess that puts me in the minority. To me, one of the best things about sabermetrics is it helps us identify who the great players really were irrespective of narrative. Just looking at the numbers alone, Reuschel isn’t really even borderline. He’s got more rWAR than Jim Palmer, Whitey Ford, Don Sutton, John Smoltz, Carl Hubbell, and Juan… Read more »

Joe Dimino
7 years ago

We elected him to the Hall of Merit. I was probably his biggest supporter, nice work.

I think Bunning and Palmer are really good comps. Palmer had historically great defenses and Reuschel historically bad ones – that’s about the range for how much defensive support can help/hurt – D can make Jim Bunning look like Jim Palmer … or Rick Reuschel.

bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  Joe Dimino

You’re right about Palmer and Reuschel being the two extreme points for good/bad defense behind them. I’ve been looking at all pitchers with greater than 50 rWAR and their respective RA9defense mark. The biggest number I’ve encountered outside the deadball era is Palmer at +0.33 RA9def, while Reuschel is tied with Phil Niekro for the worst at -0.18.

The closest positive numbers to Palmer I can find are Whitey Ford at +0.24 RA9def, Carl Hubbell at +0.23, Billy Pierce at +0.19, and Dave Stieb at +0.17.

bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

Cool, Adam, may I ask where you got that table? The wording of the tables suggests the B-Ref WAR database. I personally filtered out all the deadball era guys because there were soooo many with crazy good defensive numbers. What’s weird is that among all pitchers with over 50 WAR, almost all of the deadball guys on this list had very good defenses behind them, but hardly any had poor ones. Here’s a partial list of the good defenses: Al Simmons +0.40 RA9def Old Hoss Radbourn +0.29 Tim Keefe +0.26 Kid Nichols +0.24 Tony Mullane +0.24 Ed Walsh +0.21 John… Read more »

bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Sorry, not top 50 for rWAR but pitchers with over 50 rWAR.

bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Good point about lousy pitchers playing behind bad defenses not lasting as long. But I don’t think that answers the question entirely. Of the names you listed, only Win Mercer had much value as a pitcher, with 20+ WAR to his credit. Do we really know if Win Mercer was a good pitcher or not? Since he played for such bad defensive teams (and bad in the standings), as you say this may have shortened his career. I’m certain it hurt his RA9. And since the line between earned runs and unearned ones was so blurred back then, isn’t it… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  bstar

bstar, I endorse this view: “I’m forced to look at deadball (or especially 19th century) pitchers with even more skepticism because it’s more difficult to tell if it was pitching or defense driving their numbers.” Take the Cubs of Tinker-Evers-Chance. From 1903 through 1912, 15 pitchers logged 200+ total IP for the Cubs, and all but one had an ERA+ of at least 108. Plenty of them were provably good pitchers, but some were just guys who came along and looked great for a while with that defensive machine behind them. Buttons Briggs; King Cole; Bob Wicker; Jake Weimer; even… Read more »

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

Neikro, Candiotti, Wood.
Is a knuckleball-hit-ball harder to catch?

mosc
mosc
7 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

no, it’s like being hit off a tee since there’s no spin on the ball when it contacts the bat. How much are wild pitches and passed balls getting into this calculation? Bad catching (or wild pitching) can have a much larger effect than strong or weak fielders.

Doug
Doug
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

That list of worst fielders all-time is incredible.

Incredible because 5 of the 10 all played 100+ games for the 1974 Cubs. And, it wasn’t just that one season. 4 of those 10 played on the ’72, ’73 and ’75 Cubs, and 3 played on the ’76 Cubs.

That’s got to be worth a post – the Cubs as MLBs Bad News Bears.

Ed
Ed
7 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug – That’s not a list of the worst fielders of all time. It took me a while to figure out what it was. It’s the list of the worst (and best) fielders for Rick Reuschel. And only counting the years they were teammates with Reuschel.

Mike L
Mike L
7 years ago
Reply to  Doug

I would still like to see negative Rfield per 100 games. Might be fun. Was Frank Thomas worse than Dick Stuart?

Doug
Doug
7 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Thanks, Ed. That makes more sense.

Those 1974 Cubs were indeed the worst defensively of those Cubs teams, posting -139 TZ fielding runs as a team. Only 3 players (none a regular) were above zero, at 2, 1 and 1. They committed 199 errors and allowed 129 unearned runs.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

Just noticed this about Reuschel: In 1987, he placed 3rd in an incredibly close vote for the NL Cy Young Award. Reuschel got 8 first-place votes and 54 points, while Bedrosian got 9 firsts and 57 points. Sutcliffe squeezed in between with 4 firsts and 55 points. Reuschel went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA and got traded in August. He was 4th in ERA, 3rd (tie) in ERA+, miles away from the SO leaders. He did lead the league with 12 CG and 4 shutouts, but he was only 8th in IP and 8th in WAR/pitch. The Giants did surge… Read more »

Jason Z
7 years ago

Your assessment that 1987 was an “odd” year for the NL CY Young is spot on John. Thinking back to that season, my guess is emotion played a large part. As mentioned, the lack of a clear frontrunner, led to Bedrosian winning a close race. Bedrosian was a beneficiary of the times. Mike Marshall broke through as the first relief pitcher to win the CY Young in 1974. And then… 1977 Sparky Lyle 1979 Bruce Sutter 1981 Rollie Fingers 1984 Willie Hernandez 1987 Steve Bedrosian 1989 Mark Davis 1992 Dennis Eckersley 2003 Eric Gagne None since. In 1987 40 saves… Read more »

Ed
Ed
7 years ago
Reply to  Jason Z

Looking some more at 1987…all the top candidates (except for Bob Welch and Ryan) pitched poorly down the stretch. Orel Hershiser had an ERA of 2.42 on July 10th and was still at 2.72 on Sept. 18th. But he pitched poorly in 2 of his last 3 starts to end at 3.06. Rick Sutcliffe was 15-4 with a 3.26 ERA on August 2nd. He ended at 18-10 with a 3.68 ERA. Dwight Gooden had an ERA of 2.41 on July 16th and was 13-4 with a 2.87 ERA on Sept. 2nd. He finished 15-7 with a 3.21 ERA. Mike Scott… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Good finds, Ed. As to Bedrosian, here’s my take:

1987 was the first full NL season without a 19-game winner. Voters may have assumed the apocalypse was nigh. And when all around you is crumbling, you naturally seek Bedrock.

Ed
Ed
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

John: Everyone knows that if not for discrimination against prehistoric people, “Big League Freddie” would have dominated in 1987.

http://www.tv.com/shows/the-flintstones/big-league-freddie-60034/

Artie Z.
Artie Z.
7 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Bedrosian set at record in 1987 – he had 13 straight appearances in which he recorded a save, from 5/25 to 6/30. While it was in the middle of the season, it likely drew attention to Bedrosian. This was apparently a big enough event that Score made a Bedrosian highlight card, and Topps included mention of Bedrosian’s record on his box bottom card.

Plus, as Jason states, 40 saves was huge. Only Sutter, Reardon, Quisenberry, and Righetti had ever hit that mark (at least according to the aforementioned Score card). This probably added extra attention to Bedrosian.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  Artie Z.

I’ll quibble a bit about the eyeball impact of Bedrosian’s 40 saves in 1987. Yes, he led the majors, and no one else had more than 36 that year. But someone else had recorded *more than 40* saves in each of the past 4 years. In 1983, Quisenberry set a record with 45 saves, 7 more than the old mark. Sutter tied that the very next year (setting an NL mark), while Quis himself had 44. Reardon got 41 in ’85. And in ’86 Righetti nudged the record up to 46. With all that going on so recently, I don’t… Read more »

bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  Jason Z

Here’s the WAR totals for those reliever Cy Young years, the actual WAR pitching leader that year, with the WAR leader’s finish in the voting in parentheses: 1974 Mike Marshall 2.9 WAR / Jon Matlack 8.8 WAR (zero Cy votes) 1977 Sparky Lyle 3.5 / Frank Tanana 8.0 (9th) 1979 Bruce Sutter 4.9 / Phil Niekro 7.0 (6th) 1981 Rollie Fingers** 4.1 / Bert Blyleven 5.5 (zero Cy votes) 1984 Willie Hernandez** 4.6 / Dave Stieb 7.6 (7th) 1987 Steve Bedrosian 2.2 / Bob Welch 6.8 (8th) 1989 Mark Davis 4.4 / Orel Hershiser 6.8 (4th) 1992 Dennis Eckersley** 2.8… Read more »

Jason Z
7 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Bstar: I agree with what you say about the “save”. Clearly in 1987 the writers were still enamored with saves. Thankfully, in the last 25 years we have come to a better understanding. As the closer has now morphed into being a one inning pitcher, I find it possible that we will never see another closer win. If so, it would have to be perfect storm, similar to 1987, where no starter stands out. Unlikely. I would take issue with only one point you made. I think Mike Marshall was phenomenal in 1974. So much so that the writers actually… Read more »

Ed
Ed
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

Adam – A question. Not sure if you know the answer but it’s worth asking. Does the defensive adjustment for pitchers take into account the number of balls in play? Obviously a strikeout pitcher is going to be less effected by a poor defense than a non-strikeout pitcher. But I’m not sure that’s factored in. Reuschel wasn’t a big time strikeout pitcher but he was definitely above average so perhaps he was hurt less by his defense than we’re assuming.

Ed
Ed
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

Thanks Adam! Seems like the one thing that “might” be missing is an adjustment based on the groundball/flyball tendencies of the pitcher relative to the defense. For example, if you had a groundball pitcher who was backed by an above average infield but a below average outfield, that pitcher’s defense would (I think) be rated average when in fact for that particular pitcher it would be an above average defense. I don’t know if it’s true but I think that’s how the defensive adjustments for WAR work.

(this is a general comment by the way, not related to Reuschel)

bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  Ed

But it does relate to Reuschel quite well, Ed.

One thing I’ve heard recently about Reuschel is that he gets a ton of credit for pitching all those years in Wrigley Field where the park factor is so high for pitchers, but since he was such an extreme ground ball pitcher, he wasn’t as affected by the short fences in Wrigley.

I’m a huge Reuschel fan, so I’m not into this argument much. But it is out there.

Ed
Ed
7 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Okay thanks for that info Bstar. Personally I think WAR is great but I do think it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. There are so many things that haven’t been factored in yet. I assume/hope that some of them are being worked on. But even if they are, we’ll probably lack the data to go back in time and apply them to players in the past.

Tim Pea
Tim Pea
7 years ago

Hey Adam, how about Reuschel vs. Orel Hershiser? Similar win totals with Orel having far fewer loses. Orel pitched a lot for Tommy LaSorda who liked to give away a little on defense for a good bat (see Steve Sax and Pedro Guerrero). Also check out the similar batting stats.

Adam Darowski
7 years ago
Reply to  Tim Pea

Hershiser seems to be a bit of a Reuschel-lite. His defense was bad, but not quite as bad. He had a few hundred fewer innings. He also threw in a pitcher’s park rather than a hitter’s park. I like Hershiser a lot, though. His postseason record does help his case.

A late start and overwork probably severely hurt Hershiser’s case.

Tim Pea
Tim Pea
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Darowski

Agreed, all good points.

trackback

[…] his mammoth Hall Rating, I wasn’t sold on Reuschel until Adam Darowski convinced me about his incredible results in front of horrible defenses. Tiant had two sub-2 ERA seasons and was […]

bruststraffung
7 years ago

Heya i am for the first time here. I found this board and I
find It really useful & it helped me out a lot. I
hope to give something back and help others like you aided
me.

Natalie Johnson
7 years ago

I think it is extremely important to maintain your well-being in general. I started reading recently how scientists have been connecting bad oral care to coronary disease so a lot of these kind of problems are connected which makes it extremely important to take care of ones overall health.

trackback

[…] Rick Reuschel- Reuschel played on bad teams, filled with poor defenders, and he was out of shape. He was constantly overlooked because of those […]

trackback

[…] Reuschel had the misfortune of pitching on several bad teams that happened to be filled with subpar defenders. Just how good he was depends on which WAR model you prefer, his bWAR based on RA/9 is 68.2, his […]

trackback

[…] Beyond ERA+: Why Rick Reuschel Had Hall of Fame Value […]

Richard
Richard
1 year ago

Rick pitched a lot of years but I’d still take Mel Stottlemyre over him….