Circle of Greats 1871-72 Runoff: Walsh vs. Wilhelm

We need a quick runoff vote to resolve the tie at the top in the 1871-72 election voting. Voting closes Wednesday night, December 23rd, so vote early.

More after the jump.

This runoff vote involves two pitchers, but that’s where the similarity begins and ends. Two different eras, starter vs reliever, spitballer vs knuckleballer.

Ed Walsh

Walsh compiled 63.2 WAR and 36.3 WAA in a fourteen year career of almost 3000 innings pitched, all but 18 of them for the White Sox. However, 85% of those innings and 95% of the WAR came from a 7-year peak from 1906 to 1912, with three of those seasons over 10 WAR and all of them over 4 WAR. Walsh won 195 games and lost 126 for a .607 W-L%. He won 20 games four times, with three of those seasons over 25 wins. Walsh is the last pitcher to record a 40 win season, going 40-15 in 1908 with 49 starts, 17 relief appearances and 464 innings pitched, the last the AL record workload for a single season.

Walsh’s career marks of a 1.82 ERA and 2.02 FIP are both all-time bests. He also sports a nifty 1.000 career WHIP. It’s thus somewhat surprising that he led the AL in ERA and WHIP only twice, and in FIP just once. His complete black ink ledger includes:

  • 5 times – Games, Saves
  • 4 times –  IP, BF
  • 3 times – GS, GF, Shutouts, SO/BB ratio
  • 2 times – CG, Strikeouts, ERA, ERA+, WHIP
  • 1 time – Wins, Losses, W-L%, FIP, BB/9, HR/9

Hoyt Wilhelm

Wilhelm made his major league debut in 1952, just three months shy of his 30th birthday.Despite his late start, Wilhelm authored a 21-year career that would see him surpass Cy Young‘s all-time record of 906 games pitched, reaching a total of 1070 appearances that would stand for 30 years as the major league standard. Most of Wilhelm’s career was spent with the Giants, Orioles and White Sox, recording 600+ IP and an ERA under 3.00 for each of those franchises. Now a common occurrence, Wilhelm was the first pitcher to begin a career without a game start over his first 6 seasons. His 666 IP over that span remains the highest total without a start. Wilhelm exceeded 50 appearances in the first five of those seasons, also a major league first.

Wilhelm’s 2.52 ERA is easily the best of the live ball era among pitchers with 2000 career IP, while his 147 career ERA+ trails only Pedro Martinez and Lefty Grove among that group. Wilhelm twice led his league in both ERA and ERA+, in his rookie season (the only time in a full length season that a reliever has qualified for and won the ERA crown) and for the Orioles in 1959, his lone season as a starter. Wilhelm’s 881 IP aged 40+ is the highest total among relievers, over 400 innings more than Satchel Paige in second place. Wilhelm’s 2.18 ERA over that part of his career is second only to the 1.95 mark posted by Mariano Rivera.

One caveat to Wilhelm’s ERA results is that, while his earned run count was very low, his total runs allowed were less so, as more than 18% of them were unearned. That proportion is second only to Dutch Leonard among pitchers in a 2000 IP career played entirely since 1920. While Wilhelm’s knuckler befuddled hitters, it often did the same to his catchers as, eight times during Wilhelm’s career, his catchers led the league in passed balls. All that said, Wilhelm’s 3.09 career RA is still the best of the live ball era among the 2000 IP group, just a hair better than Sandy KoufaxWhitey Ford and Tom Seaver.

So, the choice is yours: Walsh or Wilhelm. However you decide, your ballot in this runoff round, unlike the usual three-name ballot, should identify just one name, that of Walsh or Wilhelm. You will also need to add at least a little bit of extra verbiage though, because the WordPress engine that supports the site won’t accept comments of only one or two words.

This is a short-deadline runoff election. All votes must be in by 11:59PM EST on Wednesday night, December 23rd. If the result of this runoff is still a tie, the tie-breaker will give the win to the candidate who received the most runoff votes immediately before the very last runoff vote cast. So it may not be advisable to wait till the end of the runoff period to cast your vote, because if your vote happens to be the last one cast, your vote may not count for tiebreaker purposes. If you would like to keep track of the vote tally for the runoff, you can check this tally spreadsheet: COG 1871-72 Runoff Vote Tally.

 

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JEV
JEV
4 years ago

Walsh is my vote

David Horwich
David Horwich
4 years ago

I vote for Walsh.

Brent
Brent
4 years ago

I vote Ed Walsh

Andy
Andy
4 years ago

I’ll vote for Ed Walsh

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago

Make mine a vote (and COMMANDING lead) for Ed Walsh.

David P
David P
4 years ago

Also Walsh. Now 6-0.

CursedClevelander
CursedClevelander
4 years ago

Well, I don’t want this to be a blowout, but I had Walsh ranked 3rd among eligible pitchers after Brown and Waddell, with Wilhelm closer to the middle of the pack.

So Ed Walsh it is. We’re getting close to the mercy rule here.

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
4 years ago

Is a spitballer and a knuckleballer really that different?

Jeff B
Jeff B
4 years ago

Alltime ERA Leader Ed Walsh

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
4 years ago

I love the discrepancies between Walsh’s W/L record and his WAR in 1908 and 1910

40-15
10.1

18-20
10.9

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
4 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

Walsh had 40 wins in 1908 and 15 in 1909. That 25 game decrease is the second greatest in the game. First place goes to Pete Alexander with 30 wins in 1917 and only 2 in 1918, a shortened season due to being called into the armed services.

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
4 years ago

1908 Wins 40 … Walsh 24 … Joss 24 … Ed Summers ERA 1.16 … Joss 1.26 … Cy Young 1.42 … Walsh 1.64 … Ed Summers Games 66 … Walsh 53 … Rube Vickers Games Started 49 … Walsh 37 … Doc White Games Finished 17 … Vickers 16 … Walsh Complete Games 42 … Walsh 30 … Cy Shutouts 11 .. Walsh 9 … Joss Saves 6 … Walsh 4 … Tom Hughes IP 464 … Walsh 325 … Joss SO 269 … Walsh 232 … Waddell Batters Faced 1755 … Walsh 1251 … Harry Howell _____________________ Whoa,… Read more »

David Horwich
David Horwich
4 years ago

Old Hoss Radbourn had a dropoff of 31 wins in 1885, the year after his 59-win performance, and Pud Galvin had a 30 win dropoff that same season.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
4 years ago
Reply to  David Horwich

I should have said from 1901 on.

Joseph
Joseph
4 years ago

I was in the hospital for a few days and I come back to this? Wilhelm, seriously?

My vote is for Walsh.

Hartvig
Hartvig
4 years ago

Walsh

Now 10-0

Chris C
Chris C
4 years ago

I’ll vote for Walsh.

T-Bone
T-Bone
4 years ago

I’ll break the shutout. Mr. Wilhelm. He of the HR hit in his first at bat, and then never another one for the rest of his 21 year career. 493 PA.

Mike L
Mike L
4 years ago

so much for my fantasy of a vigorous discussion of the two different types of pitchers…..

Walsh by 8, Walsh by 10…his is moving like a tremendous machine….

walsh to win

Stephen
Stephen
4 years ago

While i like Wilhelm, my vote is for Walsh

MJ
MJ
4 years ago

I’m voting for Walsh as well.

Mike HBC
Mike HBC
4 years ago

Pile-on Walsh vote.

bstar
bstar
4 years ago

Doug, I’m going to throw up an objection to your write-up framing this runoff. I think it is unfairly biased against Hoyt Wilhelm. You wrote two paragraphs listing the accomplishments of Ed Walsh. Then you wrote two paragraphs listing Hoyt Wilhelm’s feats but ALSO wrote a paragraph qualifying those accomplishments. I don’t think that’s fair, especially considering many of Walsh’s accomplishments and records are just as (if not more) dubious than Wilhelm’s. I think, to even things out, you should list a couple qualifying sentences to Walsh’s case. I’m not suggesting it will change even one mind, but to give… Read more »

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Sorry about the qualifier. I did sum it up though by saying: “All that said, Wilhelm’s 3.09 career RA is still the best of the live ball era among the 2000 IP group, just a hair better than Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford and Tom Seaver.”, so it wasn’t that bad.

I guess Comiskey Park is another thing that these two have in common. Perhaps explains why that’s where Wilhelm had his greatest success.

David P
David P
4 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Bstar – Walsh’s unearned run data is strange. I looked and can’t find any explanation. Your passed ball theory doesn’t fit the known data. During Walsh’s 7 year peak, the White Sox committed between 13-25 passed balls each year, hardly enough to move the needle. And those numbers seem completely normal. Just looking at 1912, they had 21 passed balls, whereas the other AL teams ranged from 15-28. Were the White Sox charged with a lot of errors? Nope. During Walsh’s 7 year peak, they were last or second to last in the AL in errors 5 times. Perhaps Walsh… Read more »

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
4 years ago
Reply to  David P

Maybe he had a weak temperament, and when his SS booted an easy 2-out grounder he routinely imploded and gave up six hits in a row.

– joshingly speculating there.

If someone invents a time-machine, the first order of business would be to go back and complete the game-logs from before 1914.

David P
David P
4 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

First order of business??? As a Cleveland sports fan, I have a LONG list of things to fix before we get to those game logs…

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  David P

I’m guessing it’s something about the spitter. I say that because the last two spitballers, playing most of their careers in the live ball era (i.e. more similar to modern conditions), also had very high unearned run rates, with 20% for Burleigh Grimes and 22% for Jack Quinn.

It might be that it was just tough for the fielders to get a good grip. Or, maybe the fielders’ throws behaved similarly to the pitches and handcuffed the player trying to make the catch.

Hartvig
Hartvig
4 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Koufax park factors are “helped” (if that’s the right word for this) by playing the first 7 years of his career in Ebbets Field and the Los Angeles Coliseum. Every year he pitched in Dodger Stadium the PPF was 91 or 92.

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
4 years ago
Reply to  bstar

bstar, I think Doug’s paragraph on Wilhelm’s unearned runs was helpful. We’ve had a series of long and well researched posts on this topic by Kahuna Tuna, and it has been so prominent a feature of Wilhelm discussions that I’m sure we all had it in mind. When I read Doug’s paragraph, the takeaway that I drew from it was his point that Wilhelm’s RA was still very low, so I felt the bottom line was a pro-Wilhelm spin. As for Walsh’s unearned runs, I’m not sure the effect is as great as you suggest. I just totaled the league… Read more »

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
4 years ago

Respect for me?
Gosh. I don’t need that. Vote for whomever you want. Vote for Ray Finkle for the Dolphins Hall of Fame for all I care.

Laces out!

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
4 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

There’s no stipulation allowing vote changes this round, Voomo, so I guess I’m stuck with Walsh and will have to postpone my write-in campaign for Ray Finkle (I’ve been wondering why we skipped Roy Hobbs too). As for respect, HHS posters who know more about baseball than I really do influence my thinking.

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
4 years ago

I’m voting for Wilhelm.

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
4 years ago

It would be maladriot to not vote for Hoyt.
___________

Vote:

Wilhelm

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
4 years ago

I’m going with Walsh.

Shard
Shard
4 years ago

Walsh all the way.

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
4 years ago

For the White Sox (both with that fantastic home-field advantage (as designed by Walsh):

Walsh vs Wilhelm

1.81 ERA / 146 ERA+
1.92 ERA / 171 ERA+

2946 IP
677 IP

0.995 WHIP
0.935 WHIP

63.4 WAR / 46.5 IP per WAR
16.4 WAR / 41.3 IP per WAR

Hartvig
Hartvig
4 years ago

By my count the current tally is Walsh 17, Wilhelm 4 Someone my want to double check however.
There were 37 votes in the last round. Assuming that all of those people vote in this round- a bit of a stretch given that there’s almost certainly going to be someone who abstains because they don’t feel that either of them belong plus the holidays- the halfway point is 18.5

Dave Humbert
Dave Humbert
4 years ago

My vote is for Walsh.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago

My count agrees with Hartvig’s. But since there’s been one more since then, here’s an update:

Walsh – 18
Wilhelm – 4

mosc
mosc
4 years ago

Wilhelm. I don’t think there are many deadball players we should be considering. It’s a non-integrated league with different rules that favored pitching so heavily that a career ERA of 1.82 was only 141+. Raw stats are not helping us here. The marginal value of a run was totally different.

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
4 years ago

Well, mosc, your point about pre-integration leagues stands on its own, and, post-1900, covers more lively than dead ball years. As for ERA+, Walsh’s was 145, fourth all-time among starting pitchers with 2000 IP. In the integrated era, only Pedro does better.

Gary Bateman
Gary Bateman
4 years ago

Wilhelm is my choice.

oneblankspace
oneblankspace
4 years ago

Wilhelm actually fell off the ballot and was restored in Redemption Round 8.2 (around the time of Round 92 in May 2015).

He (Wilhelm) has my vote in this runoff.

I have been voting a Walsh-Wilhelm ticket the past few years. No objections if Walsh gets in here. I have been voting for Wilhelm since Biggio was still on the ballot.

brp
brp
4 years ago

Don’t blame me, I voted for Wilhelm.

Jameson
Jameson
4 years ago

My vote is for Walsh.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago

Walsh – 19
Wilhelm -8

Bryan O'Connor
Editor
4 years ago

Kevin Brown. Or, because I have to, Ed Walsh.

Paul E
Paul E
4 years ago

Ed Walsh gets my vote

Hub Kid
Hub Kid
4 years ago

I was going to sit this one out because I like both of these pitchers, with their near opposite pitching careers. I have no problem with Walsh, but I don’t want a blowout.

My thinking on Wilhelm is the slippery slope argument (which it would be better to avoid): Wilhelm’s career value is so similar to Mariano Rivera’s, I think they should both be in. I don’t really like closers/relievers for the Hall or COG, but it’s not like Rivera is very near the borderline.

(vote) Wilhelm for me.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago

Just today and tomorrow left, folks, and it must seem like even less than that for the Wilhelm supporters. Here’s where the tally stands through Hub Kid’s vote:

Walsh – 21
Wilhelm – 9

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago

HEY EVERYONE! If you’re interested in Hall of Fame stuff (you are; that’s why you’re reading a COG post on HHS) you should check out Graham Womack’s annual project on the 25 best players not in the Hall of Fame. It used to be the top 50, and it was run on Graham’s old blog. This year, the SPORTING NEWS is running it in conjunction with Graham, and he’s still looking for participants. Maybe you’ll remember Graham – he used to post around here once in a while and he’s a good guy. Balloting is open until Monday the 28th.… Read more »

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
4 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Thanks, Doom. It was not an easy task, but fun to try. The background of CoG discussions makes it a lot easier.

Hartvig
Hartvig
4 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

I started to do this a week ago & got sidetracked. Now it looks as if it will have to wait until Sunday, if ever.

The part I don’t understand is why anyone would type in someones day and then put an N. Or why you have to put a Y after their name for that matter.

Why not just tell people to list the 25 best players?

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
4 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

I took the question of the 25 best players outside the Hall as one thing, and who belongs in the Hall as another. Being a modestly small Hall guy, I don’t think the Hall needs that much expansion. (And although I’m all for Bonds, Clemens, and Rose in the Hall, Jackson crosses a line for me.)

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

I think there are three reasons for the Y/N: 1. To respect Small Hall guys, like epm mentions below. Maybe you think Dwight Evans is great. But that doesn’t mean you think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. 2. Steroids. There are plenty of people, on this site included, who believe that you’re quite possibly some sort of demon or mass-murderer if you used steroids, and that therefore such players don’t deserve the Hall. AKA, Barry Bonds was great, but as soon as he touched The Clear, he became permanently ineligible in their minds. 3. Gambling. Pete Rose and,… Read more »

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
4 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Just one small thought on Rose. We can’t ever really know the truth, because he was so dishonest for so many years (and continues to exhibit a character that most people see as shady). But to the question of whether he ever bet Against the Reds. Or, if his Managing of the team was somehow influenced by his betting intentions… The one thing that seems clear about Rose is that he was hyper-competitive. He ran to first base on a walk, he never missed a game, and he played ’till he was 45. The gambling started in earnest, when? When… Read more »

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
4 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

I agree with you, Voomo. And I also feel that there’s a major difference between Rose and PED users or Shoeless Joe. Rose broke a rule. The others cheated.

When you bet on your team, it’s an inducement to play your hardest, which is the object of baseball; it’s not immoral. The problem is simply that baseball has a rule against it. (Rose’s lying is a different matter; it’s immoral, but there’s no rule against it, and it has nothing to do with games.)

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

Rose broke a rule. Steroid users broke a rule. Rose tried his hardest because he wanted to win. Steroid users, in trying to win, sought a competitive edge. You call one “cheating” and the other “breaking a rule,” and see a HUGE difference between these two things. I think that’s silly. Did Rose bet only on his teams? Sure, okay, let’s assume that’s true (and I think what we DO know of Pete Rose’s character indicates that such an action IS likely. Okay. Now, some days, Rose DIDN’T bet on his team. Was he compromising the integrity of the game… Read more »

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
4 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

Can’t agree, Doom. Silly or not, I do see a huge difference. Rose, in trying to win, tried to win by the rules – his rule breaking had nothing to do with the game on the field. PED users and Black Sox co-conspirators broke a rule in the way they tried to win, and that affected the game on the field. I suppose I could say that every PED user who didn’t use to the max was doing what you say Rose did when he didn’t bet – not trying as hard as they could (not to mention all those… Read more »

CursedClevelander
CursedClevelander
4 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

I definitely think there’s a generational gap in place here. Dr. Doom and I are of a similar age; maybe we’re more forgiving of PED users because, for better or worse, the Selig era was “our” era. Everyone tends to glorify the baseball of their youth, and our youth was the age of Bonds and Clemens and McGwire and Sosa. They were towering figures, just like Rose was a towering figure in his era. I put PED use in the same category as scuffing the ball, stealing signs, throwing a spitball, doing amphetamines, corking the bat – they’re all actions… Read more »

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
4 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

I’m sure you’re right, C.C.: different generations see things differently and have their reasons. Your perspective on PEDs isn’t one I can make sense of, but it’s years since anyone even bothered to try teaching me a new trick, so patently obvious is the futility.

By the way, Rose may have been a towering figure to the generation after mine, for whom the Big Red Machine may have set a standard in that era. But I don’t think people who grew up with Williams, Musial, Mays, and Mantle as standards ever saw Rose that way.

opal611
opal611
4 years ago

Since I don’t have anyone that I need to worry about keeping on the ballot, I’m going to give my vote to Wilhelm. Thanks!

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
4 years ago

I vote for Wilhelm.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago

One last update. We stand at 32 ballots, which means there are MAYBE 5 voters out there today who haven’t chimed in yet. This update is going to prove that those 5 votes don’t really hold a lot of sway here, but feel free to cast them, anyway. Here goes:

Walsh – 21
Wilhelm – 11

This may be the most lopsided runoff we’ve had, depending on how you measure it. 10 votes is only the second-widest margin (Mickey Cochrane topped Al Simmons by 11), but the percentage of votes by Walsh (65.6%) is the greatest percentage in a runoff.

Brendan Bingham
Brendan Bingham
4 years ago

Vote: knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
4 years ago

Most Games Pitched, Age-40 season+:

494 … Wilhelm

367 … Orosco
342 … Quinn
300 … P. Niekro

267 … Doug Jones
257 … Moyer

223 … Kaat
222 … Eck
209 … Hough

199 … Dutch Leonard
198 … Mariano Rivera
197 … Tekulve
197 … Don McMahon
196 … Nolan Ryan

185 … Roberto Hernandez
182 … Red Faber (another White Sock – 68.4 WAR)
180 … Tommy John
179 … Franco
179 … Paige
179 … Spahn

Paul E
Paul E
4 years ago

Most IP age 40 and beyond. Wilhelm is 11th with ~ 880

1 Phil Niekro 1977.0
2 Jamie Moyer 1551.1
3 Jack Quinn 1427.2
4 Charlie Hough 1346.1
5 Nolan Ryan 1271.2
6 Cy Young 1226.1
7 Warren Spahn 1163.0
8 Randy Johnson 1013.0
9 Tommy John 1000.2
10 Gaylord Perry 992.0