Random Bert Blyleven facts

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I’m pretty sure that this is the slowest news day in baseball history. As such, I surfed around for some random Bert Blyleven facts that speak to some of the criticisms and/or put some of his accomplishments in perspective. Yes, there is an undeniable element of cherry picking to this — like I said this morning, Rich Lederer has done the heavy lifting in terms of real argument — but there is an even stronger element of cherry picking to the case against Blyleven’s Hall of Fame candidacy, so why not fight fire with fire?  Randomness:

  • Oh noes! Blyleven led the league in losses once!  Modern-era pitchers who lost more games than Bert Blyleven: Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton;
  • Guys who didn’t pitch as many innings as Bert Blyleven: Roger Clemens, Christy Mathewson, Tom Seaver, Tommy John, Greg Maddux;
  • People use his wins against him (as in, why couldn’t he get 300)? OK, here are guys who didn’t win as many games as Bert Blyleven: Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, Bob Gibson, Jack Morris, Juan Marichal. All but Morris pitched in eras of the four man rotation too;
  • Guys who didn’t pitch as many shutouts as Blyleven: Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Whitey Ford, Robin Roberts. Actually, it would be easier to list the guys who had more shutouts than Blyleven. There are only eight;
  • Guys who didn’t win 10 games or more as many times as Blyleven: Robin Roberts, Carl Hubbell, Fergie Jenkins, Jack Morris, Lefty Grove;
  • Guys who didn’t hit as many batters as Blyleven (i.e. he was a badass!): Roger Clemens, Don Dysdale, Pedro Martinez;
  • Guys who won more 1-0 games than Bert Blyleven: Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander. That’s it;
  • What’s with the Opening Day starts thing anyway? Heyman made a big deal out the fact that Jack Morris had been given the ball on Opening Day 14 times in his career, rendering him King Ace or something. Well, Blyleven got the honor 12 times. Is this really a distinction with a difference?
  • And the dingers?  Sure, Blyleven gave up a lot of homers. But it’s worth noting that five of the seven guys who gave up more homers than Bert are Hall of Famers themselves: Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Neikro, Sutton and Spahn.  Frank Tanana and Jamie Moyer are the other two. Steve Carlton gave up only sixteen less than Bert did. Jack Morris would have given up more than Bert if he had the four seasons under his belt that Bert had over him;
  • Defense? Eh, not a big part of the discussion for a pitcher, but Bert did go the entire 1976 season without making an error, and that’s pretty spiffy;

Yes, I realize I’m not going to change anyone’s mind here, but when our civilization crashes and future archaeologists dig through our ruins, I would like there to be some collected evidence that Bert Blyleven was a Hall of Fame quality pitcher even if he never makes it.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.