Tuesday, January 12, 2021

David Ostrowsky’s Pro Sports in 1993 Gives Readers an In-Depth Look at a Memorable Year in Football, Basketball, Hockey and Baseball


The Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bulls, Montreal Canadiens, and Toronto Blue Jays.  These four teams were once dominant franchises in their respective sport.  However, over the past couple of decades, these franchises have struggled to recapture their past championship glory.  In his book, Pro Sports in 1993:  A Signature Season in Football, Basketball, Hockey and Baseball, David Ostrowsky takes the reader back to a memorable year in which this quartet of teams stood tall as champions of the four major sports.

Ostrowsky splits his book into seven chapters, each of which examines a major event that shaped the 1993 sports world.  Ostrowsky devotes a chapter to each of the championship teams from the four major sports.  In addition, Ostrowsky also includes three additional chapters which cover Joe Montana’s first season with the Kansas City Chiefs following the veteran quarterback’s controversial trade from the San Francisco 49ers, the opening of the Baltimore Orioles home ballpark Camden Yards which played host to the 1993 MLB All-Star Game, and the Buffalo Bills incredible comeback win against the Houston Oilers in AFC Wild Card Playoff Game.  Each of the seven chapters are thoroughly researched and well written.  Ostrowsky secured first-hand interviews with a wealth of players, coaches, and team personnel.  Ostrowsky does an excellent job of mixing his writing with quotes he gathered from these first-hand interviews.

As a baseball fan, I was drawn to the chapters about Camden Yards hosting the MLB All-Star Game and the Toronto Blue Jays repeating as World Series champions.  Ostrowsky gives details on the background of the building of Camden Yards, takes the reader through the April 1992 opening of the ballpark, the pregame festivities of the 1993 All-Star Week, and the All-Star Game itself.  I learned a lot about Camden Yards in this chapter.  For example, I was not aware that a young Orioles intern named Theo Epstein was instrumental in putting together a five-day celebration during the All-Star Week to honor former Negro League players.  Also, I was surprised to find out that there was a fair amount of push back for the retro-style ballpark design which Camden Yards made famous.  Ostrowsky brings the All-Star Game to life with quotes from both American and National League players including Jay Bell, Devon White, John Burkett, and Andy Benes.  Ostrowsky also gives insights into the clash between Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston who helmed the AL team and Orioles hurler Mike Mussina who was denied the chance to pitch in front of the hometown fans when Gaston opted to have Blue Jays reliever Duane Ward toss the final inning of the Midsummer Classic.
Pro Sports in 1993 includes several quotes about players from the World Series-winning Toronto Blue Jays as well as the teams they faced in the playoffs

The chapter about the Blue Jays features an assortment of quotes centering on Toronto’s top players including future Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Paul Molitor as well memorable sluggers Joe Carter and John Olerud.  This chapter also highlights the differences between Toronto’s 1992 World Series-winning team and the 1993 club along with the challenges they faced trying to repeat as World Champions.  The acquisition of Molitor—the eventual 1993 World Series MVP—and the emergence of Olerud— the 1993 AL batting champ—are identified as key factors in Toronto repeating as World Champions.  Ostrowsky doesn’t just focus on the Blue Jays, he also takes a look at the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, the two teams Toronto defeated in the playoffs on their way to securing a second-straight World Championship.  The speed and power of the White Sox is spotlighted with quotes about future Hall of Famers Tim Raines and Frank Thomas while characters like John Kruk, Darren Daulton, and Lenny Dykstra are remembered from the collection of misfits who made up the unlikely NL Pennant-winning Phillies.  Ostrowsky interviews some notable players for this chapter including 7-time Gold Glove winner Devon White and 1993 AL Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell.  However, the player with the most intriguing quotes is veteran Blue Jays infielder Alfredo Griffin.  As a light-hitting middle infielder who was primarily on Toronto’s postseason roster for his glovework, Griffin describes entering Game 6 as a late-inning defensive replacement and finding himself with the unique perspective of being the on-deck hitter when Joe Carter took Mitch Williams deep for his Series-ending walk-off home run.
The 1993 Stanley Cup Finals featured a match up between future Hall of Famers Patrick Roy and Wayne Gretzky with a young John LeClair emerging as an unlikely hero

I was also drawn to the chapter about the 1993 Stanley Cup-winning Montreal Canadiens.  I have always drawn a parallel between the dominance of the 24-time Stanley Cup champion Canadiens and the New York Yankees, winners of 27 World Series Titles.  It’s hard to believe that with Montreal’s long history of success, 1993 represents their most recent championship to date and perhaps even more shocking is that no Canadian-based franchise has raised the Cup since.  As a one-off championship team, the 1993 Canadiens are rarely written about and not romanticized in the same way as the club’s dynasties from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  Thus, it is nice to see Ostrowsky focus on the 1993 team’s postseason triumph.  This chapter largely centers on the two iconic players who faced off in the Finals, Montreal’s Patrick Roy and Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings.  Ostrowsky gives a background on each of these superstar player’s struggles prior to the playoffs—Roy’s subpar regular season before railing off an amazing 10 straight overtime playoff wins and Gretzky’s return from a career-threatening injury to help lead the Kings to their first and ultimately his last Cup Final.  In addition to the in-depth look at Roy and Gretzky, this chapter also focuses on the controversial penalty involving Kings defenseman Marty McSorley which played a key role in shifting the momentum of the Finals to Montreal as well as the clutch play of young Canadiens left winger John LeClair.  Ostrowsky also secured interviews for this chapter from some well-known Canadiens and Kings players including Kirk Muller, Brian Bellows, Tony Granato, and Jimmy Carson.

Reading about Joe Montana’s move to the Chiefs seemed particularly relevant with Tom Brady recently leaving the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Also, with the Bills franchise experiencing a revival, it is a fitting time to take a look back at the Buffalo team that dominated the AFC in the early Nineties.  I actually enjoyed the chapter about Buffalo’s miraculous come-from-behind victory over the Oilers most since it featured outstanding quotes from Bills players Don Beebe, Steve Christie, and Hall of Famer Andre Reed.

Some of the book's best quotes are drawn from David Ostrowsky's first-hand interviews with Bill Cartwright, Don Beebe, and Hall of Famer Andre Reed

I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to read about Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls winning their third straight championship or the Dallas Cowboys capturing their second of what would be three Super Bowls in a four-year span since the success of these dynasties has been well-documented.  Nevertheless, I am happy I did as I found both of these chapters interesting.  A couple of the highlights from these chapters include the many facets of Jordan’s complicated personality being explored by His Airness’ former teammates Bill Cartwright and Scott Williams as well as Super Bowl XXVIII hero James Washington’s account of his experiences in helping the Cowboys overcome the Bills.

While I enjoyed reading quotes from the Bills players about their stunning comeback victory in the AFC Wild Card Game, I can’t say I strongly favored one chapter above all of the others which speaks to the overall strength of the book.  The book also gave each franchise’s 1993 season more of an identity for me—as opposed to just remembering these teams as “the second of the back-to-back Blue Jays World Series winners” or “part of the Bulls or Cowboys dynasties of the 1990s.”  I recommend this book to any sports fan because with Ostrowsky’s first-hand interviews you are sure to learn something new about the memorable players and teams that are profiled and gain a new appreciation for pro sports in 1993.

----by John Tuberty

Follow me on Twitter @BloggerTubbs

Cards:  Paul Molitor, John Olerud, Roberto Alomar 1994 Topps Stadium Club, Patrick Roy 1990-91 Score, John LeClair 1992-93 Topps Stadium Club, Wayne Gretzky 1990-91 Score, Bill Cartwright 1992-93 Topps, Don Beebe 1993 Bowman, Andre Reed 1993 Bowman

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Monday, November 9, 2020

Taking a Deeper Look into Tim Hudson’s Excellent .625 Win-Loss Percentage and Comparing the Hurler to Recent Hall of Fame Inductees and Other Prominent Pitchers from the Era He Played In

The 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot will mark the first time in nearly a decade that no first-time eligible candidates are expected to draw close to the necessary 75% of the vote required for election.  Nevertheless, the upcoming ballot features a few newly-eligible candidates with intriguing Hall of Fame cases who could build towards eventual election.

Arguably, the first-time candidate with the strongest Hall of Fame case is right-handed pitcher Tim Hudson.  During a solid career which spanned from 1999 to 2015, Hudson pitched for three teams:  the Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves, and San Francisco Giants.  Hudson was noted for his mastery of the sinkerball which he used to frustrate opposing hitters by generating weak contact and inducing ground balls.  Hudson retired with a career win-loss record of 222-133 and a 3.49 ERA.  When Hudson’s career ERA is ballpark and league adjusted, his 3.49 mark translates into a more illustrious 120 ERA+.  In addition, Hudson accumulated 57.9 career WAR during his career.  Yet, Hudson’s most impressive career statistic is his excellent .625 win-loss percentage, which is the equivalent of a team posting a 101-61 record over the course of a full season.  Historically, a pitcher with the combination of Hudson’s 222 victories and .625 win-loss percentage has been voted into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA or through one of the incarnations of the Era Committee.  However, wins have become devalued by some in the baseball community and as a result Hudson may not receive the support he would have from previous generations of voters.  With this in mind, I decided to take a deeper look into the validity of Hudson’s win-loss percentage by comparing the righty to seven prominent pitchers in a variety of categories that affect wins and losses.  Rather than just rely on the popular traditional and sabermetric methods, I chose to take a different approach by using some alternative advanced metrics and statistics to analyze the pitchers.

The seven hurlers I am comparing Hudson to include:
•the three starting pitchers most recently voted into the Hall of Fame:  Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, and Jack Morris; 
•the highest returning holdover candidate on the BBWAA ballot:  Curt Schilling;
•two of Hudson’s contemporaries who are also candidates on the upcoming ballot:  Andy Pettitte and Mark Buehrle;
•as well as another contemporary who is not yet eligible but has a strong chance at being elected to Cooperstown:  CC Sabathia.

The Rare Combination of Hudson’s 222 Wins and .625 Win-Loss Percentage
Before delving into the comparisons, I wanted to see how rare it is for a pitcher to retire with Hudson’s impressive combination of career victories and win-loss percentage.  In fact, only 16 pitchers have completed their careers with more victories than Hudson’s 222 while also posting a higher win-loss percentage than the righty’s .625 mark.  To date, 14 of those 16 pitchers are in the Hall of Fame while the two hurlers who have yet to be elected, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, are still on the BBWAA ballot.  Of course, Clemens’ and Pettitte’s Hall of Fame candidacies have each been adversely affected by their ties to PEDs.  Had it not been for the PED allegations, Clemens would have been an easy first ballot or even unanimous Hall of Fame selection while Pettitte would have certainly drawn a much higher vote total than the respective 9.9% and 11.3% he collected in his first two years on the ballot.

However, Hudson’s 222 victories and .625 win-loss percentage represent the minimum of the standard.  Nevertheless, if the standard is changed to pitchers with 200 victories and a .600 win-loss percentage, Hudson still belongs to a very exclusive club as he is one of just 37 hurlers to retire with this impressive statistical combination.  Moreover, 28 of those 37 pitchers are in the Hall of Fame.  Aside from Hudson, the remaining hurlers sitting outside of Cooperstown who retired with the 200 victory/.600 win-loss percentage combination includes the aforementioned Clemens and Pettitte and also adds the yet-to-be eligible Sabathia along with David Wells, early 20th century right-hander Carl Mays, and a trio of 19th century pitchers—Charlie Buffinton, Bob Caruthers, and Jack Stivetts.  Other than Sabathia, Hudson’s career is a healthy step above these additional hurlers as Mays and Stivetts only just clear the 200-victory threshold while Wells, Buffinton, and Stivetts barely meet the .600 win-loss percentage standard.  Mays has appeared on the Veterans Committee ballot in the past but has never come close to election.  His Hall of Fame case has been overshadowed by throwing the errant pitch that killed Ray Chapman and suspicion he purposely lost World Series games during the 1921 and 1922 Fall Classics.  The trio of 19th century hurlers have never been serious Hall of Fame candidates as each had careers that were barely a decade long, played during an era when two or three-man pitching rotations were the norm and the disparity between the best and worst teams was more pronounced.  Wells is the only pitcher of recent times to retire with the 200 victory/.600 win-loss percentage combination and fall off the BBWAA ballot.  However, Wells’ Hall of Fame case was likely doomed by his 4.13 career ERA which would be, by far, the highest in Cooperstown.
Career Totals as a Starting Pitcher
Since the majority of the stats I am using reflect the hurlers’ performances in games in which they were the starting pitcher, their career record, win-loss percentage, and ERA shown below slightly differ from their overall career totals.

The pitchers I consider most fitting to compare Hudson with are Buehrle, Halladay, Pettitte, and Sabathia because their career timelines most overlap with Hudson’s.  Keep in mind, Hudson is being judged against hurlers who have promising Hall of Fame cases or are already enshrined in Cooperstown.  It is certainly possible that each of these pitchers will one day find their way into the Hall of Fame either through the BBWAA vote or on a later Era Committee ballot.  Thus, being at or near the mean of these pitchers in these categories is impressive.

Percentage of Games Started Won and Lost
During his career, Hudson regularly won while rarely losing.  In fact, Hudson finished with a sub-.500 win-loss percentage in just two of his 17 major league seasons.  Moreover, Hudson had just four double-digit loss campaigns, including two where he lost exactly ten games.  By contrast, Hudson had 13 seasons with double-digits in wins.  Hudson’s career-high total of defeats was just 13—a total he met or exceeded in victories ten times during his career. 

The tables above show Hudson is slightly below the mean among the eight hurlers in percentage of games started where he was credited as the winning pitcher.  However, Hudson really shines in the low percentage of games started where he was tagged as the losing pitcher.  Hudson took the loss in just 27.77% of his starts, trailing only Halladay who easily leads the octet of hurlers in both categories—underscoring why “Doc” is the only first-ballot Hall of Famer of the group.  These two categories also illustrate how Hudson won with more regularity than contemporaries Buehrle and Sabathia and lost with less frequency than Pettitte, Buehrle, and Sabathia.

Quality Start Percentage and Average Game Score (Version 2.0)
Quality start and game score are two useful metrics to evaluate a starting pitcher’s performance.

A pitcher is given credit for a quality start when they pitch six or more innings while giving up three or fewer earned runs.  When a starting pitcher is removed from the game, you’ll often hear a commentator remark, “he gave his team a chance to win” or “he kept his team in the game.”  If a hurler has a quality start, they’ve essential pitched well enough to earn the win or have, at the very least, kept the game close by limiting the opposing team’s scoring.

Game score is a metric which gauges a starting pitcher’s performance by converting it into a number figure based on the quantity and quality of the outing.  Game score was originally devised by Bill James, however, I prefer Tom Tango’s refined version of the metric because it uses a slightly different formula which penalizes pitchers for giving up home runs, something James’ version does not do.

At 63.05%, Hudson is comfortably above the mean in percentage of quality starts and a good distance ahead of Pettitte, Sabathia, and Morris.  For average game score, Hudson’s 56.25% is an eyelash below the 56.34% mean.  The three pitchers Hudson trails in average game score are a pair of Hall of Fame hurlers, Halladay and Mussina, along with Schilling—who if it hadn't been for a crowded ballot and his off-the-field controversies, would have been voted into Cooperstown several years ago.

Cheap Wins and Tough Losses
A cheap win is when a starting pitcher earns the victory in a non-quality start by pitching fewer than 6 innings or allowing more than 3 earned runs.

With just 28 of his 222 career triumphs being classified as cheap wins, Hudson rarely was the recipient of a gifted victory despite making a non-quality start.  Hudson’s 12.61% mark ranks a strong third among the eight hurlers and is easily better the 15.70% mean.

Essentially the opposite of a cheap win, the pitcher is credited with a tough loss when they are the losing pitcher of record in a quality start.

This is the first category in which Hudson looks poor in comparison to the featured hurlers.  With 35 of his 133 career defeats coming in quality starts, Hudson is about 5 tough losses below the mean.  Nevertheless, Hudson’s solid average game score mark somewhat nullifies his lower number of tough losses.  Interestingly, Hudson’s highest percentage of tough losses came in 2014 when the righty posted a career-worst 9-13 record for the San Francisco Giants despite making quality starts in seven of those defeats.  Hudson’s losing record was largely the byproduct of being a victim of particularly poor run support as San Francisco’s offense scored zero or one run in each of the seven games in which the sinkerball-specialist made a quality start but was tagged with the loss.  Yet, it all worked out for Hudson and the Giants as the season ended with the veteran lifting the World Championship trophy over his head after the club beat the Kansas City Royals to win the 2014 Fall Classic.

Wins Lost and Losses Saved
The wins lost table shows how often the eight pitchers were in the position to be credited for the victory at the time they faced their final batter, only to be denied the win due to their bullpen blowing the lead.

Hudson has the dubious honor of leading the octet of hurlers in wins lost.  Over the course of his career, Hudson lost a staggering 50 potential wins due to his bullpen blowing leads.  In fact, the lead Hudson holds over the other pitchers is so significant that difference between the sinkerballer’s 10.44% win lost mark and the 8.46% of the second-highest placing hurler, Roy Halladay, is greater than the gap from Halladay to the 6.61% total of the next-to-last ranked CC Sabathia.

Hudson spent the early part of his career with the Oakland Athletics.  Along with Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, Hudson was part of an impressive trio of young starters known as the Big Three.  Before being split up by Hudson’s and Mulder’s respective trades to the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals following the 2004 season, the Big Three helped lead the A’s to three AL West Division Titles and one AL Wildcard.  Unfortunately for Hudson, Oakland’s bullpen had a bad habit of costing him wins.  Hudson was particularly victimized between 2002 and 2004 when the A’s relief corps cost the sinkerballer 18 potential wins.  Taking a deeper look into the game logs, only one of those 18 probable victories were lost as a result of Hudson leaving a runner on base.  What’s more, Hudson’s leads were often blown by the A’s closers during those years as Billy Koch squandered 3 of the 8 potential victories the bullpen cost Hudson in 2002 while Keith Foulke accounted for all 4 of Hudson’s probable wins that were lost in 2003.  However, because Oakland’s potent offense was able to retake the lead when they were the pitcher of record, Koch was credited with the win for all three of the potential victories he cost Hudson while Foulke picked up the “W” for two of the four probable victories he cost Hudson.  Despite blowing Hudson’s potential wins, Koch and Foulke were each named the respective AL Rolaid Relievers of the Year in 2002 and 2003.  While Oakland’s bullpen struggled to hold Hudson’s leads, it was certainly not due the righty coming out of games too quickly as he regularly pitched deep into ballgames, averaging 7 innings per start between 2002 and 2004.  Moreover, Hudson ranked third among AL hurlers for innings pitched in both 2002 and 2003.

The antithesis of wins lost, losses saved accounts for the number of times the eight hurlers were in position for the loss but their team came back to tie the game or take the lead, thus saving them from being the losing pitcher of record.

Hudson ranks fifth with an 8.56% losses saved mark that is a tick better than the mean.  Hudson is a good distance in front of sixth place Schilling and is well ahead of his contemporaries, Buehrle and Sabathia, who bring up the rear.  Among the eight pitchers, Hudson along with Hall of Famers Halladay and Mussina are the only ones with more wins lost than losses saved.

“Adjusted” Win-Loss Percentage
Cheap wins and tough losses essentially have their respective opposites in wins lost and losses saved.  As the previous tables illustrate, some hurlers excel amongst their fellow pitchers in one category while struggling by comparison in another.  However, by deducting cheap wins and tough losses from the pitcher’s career totals while adding wins lost and losses saved to their ledger an “adjusted” career win-loss percentage is created which gives an idea of the eight hurler’s overall performance in those four categories.  The table below shows each pitcher’s “adjusted” starting pitcher career win-loss record and the increase or decrease from their “adjusted” to their actual starting pitcher win-loss percentage.

Hudson once again finds himself among Hall of Famers as his .0117 increase from his actual to “adjusted” win-loss percentage ranks second, in between Halladay and Mussina.  Hudson and Halladay are the only two hurlers who have more tough losses than cheap wins as well as a greater number of wins lost than losses saved.  Hudson’s contemporaries, Pettitte and Sabathia, stand out in a different way as they are the only two pitchers to see a decrease from their actual to “adjusted” win-loss percentage.  In fact, Pettitte’s and Sabathia’s decreases are so significant that they bring the mean all the way down to .0040 with each of the other six hurlers comfortably above it.

Run Support
Aside from National League pitchers occasionally helping their own cause, the level of run support a hurler receives from their offense is out of their control.  Nevertheless, run support can have a major effect on a pitcher’s win-loss record.  Run support is judged in two different ways: run support per game which measures runs scored for the entire game per 27 outs and run support per innings which accounts for runs scored per 27 outs while the starting pitcher was in the game.  Below are each of the hurler’s career run support per game and per innings versus the MLB average which is in parentheses.  These tables are followed by the combined differences between each pitcher’s run support per game and per inning versus the MLB average during their career.

Hudson ranks second behind Schilling on all three tables.  However, calculating a true ranking based on run support is difficult since a pitcher’s run support is affected by a variety of factors that are unique to each hurler including the pitcher’s home ballpark, the division their team played in, and the era during which their career took place.  For example, the hurler with, by far, the lowest run support is Schilling who spent eight-and-a-half years of his career playing for the offensively-challenged Philadelphia Phillies who finished at or near the bottom of the NL in runs scored during the bulk of his time with the club.  Conversely, the pitchers with highest run support are Pettitte and Mussina who respectively spent the majority and entirety of their career’s playing in the high-offense AL East during what is often referred to as the Steroid Era.  Nevertheless, aside from Schilling, it does not appear Hudson benefited from higher run support in comparison to the featured hurlers.

Individual Starting Pitcher Win-Loss Percentage vs. Team Win-Loss Percentage
During his career, Hudson generally pitched for competitive teams.  In fact, just two seasons of Hudson’s 17-year career were spent with a team that finished the campaign with a sub-.500 record.  Thus, a Hall of Fame voter might assume the hurler’s excellent .625 win-loss percentage is a byproduct of playing the majority of his career with competitive teams.  Nevertheless, it is also true that the best pitchers will generally play the bulk of their careers with winning teams, in part, because their services will be sought by the most competitive franchises.  Indeed, the Braves made a deal with the A’s to acquire Hudson as the right-hander was approaching free agency and quickly signed him to a lucrative contract extension to keep him from testing the open market.  And, towards the end of Hudson’s career, the Giants signed the hurler to add veteran depth to their rotation as the club embarked on its third Championship run in five seasons.  While Hudson’s services were in demand by contending teams, it is undoubtedly true his win-loss record was enhanced by playing for competitive franchises.  However, most of the featured hurlers followed the same pattern of spending a significant portion of their careers with winning ballclubs.  The table below illustrates which pitchers benefited most from playing for competitive franchises by showing the difference between each’s individual win-loss percentage as a starting pitcher versus the accumulated win-loss percentage for the teams they played for during their career.

The teams Hudson played for during his career put together an overall win-loss percentage of .553 which is roughly the equivalent of a club posting a 90-72 regular season record while the righty’s .625 individual career win-loss percentage translates to a 101-61 record over the course of a full season.  The .072 difference between Hudson’s individual win-loss percentage versus the .553 mark of the teams he played for ranks the sinkerball-specialist fourth among the eight hurlers, just shy of the .077 mean.  Hudson’s win-loss percentage was aided by playing for competitive franchises but it is also evident that he outperformed his teams in comparison to his contemporaries Sabathia, Buehrle, and Pettitte as his .072 mark is comfortably ahead of each of these hurlers.

Average Finish in the Ranked Categories
To give an overall picture of how Hudson stacks up among the eight pitchers here is the average finish of the featured hurlers based on their classification in the ranked categories.  I chose to omit the three run support tables from the rankings because there are too many variables and not a clear enough picture to give an accurate ranking.  I also excluded “adjusted” win-loss percentage from the rankings since it is a composite of cheap wins, tough losses, wins lost, and losses saved.

Hudson’s 3.89 average finish ranks the sinkerballer fourth among the eight pitchers.  Hudson’s combined rankings from the nine categories add up to 35 points, putting him just three points behind overly-qualified Hall of Fame candidate Schilling and two points away from 2019 Cooperstown inductee Mussina.  Hudson is above the mean in five of the nine ranked categories.  What’s more, the righty sits well above the mean in four of those categories:  lowest percentage of games started lost, average quality start percentage, lowest percentage of cheap wins, and highest percentage of wins lost.  By contrast, Hudson is well below the mean in only one metric:  highest percentage of tough losses.

As for the seven other featured hurlers, not surprisingly Halladay leads his fellow pitchers by a sizable gap.  In fact, Halladay ranks first or second in seven of the nine categories and his 17 points from the combined rankings translates to an average finish of 1.89.  With such a wide margin separating Halladay from the three-way battle for second place between Schilling, Mussina, and Hudson, it is clear that among the nine ranked categories the first-ballot Hall of Famer is truly in a class by himself.  A ways back from the Schilling-Mussina-Hudson triumvirate, Buehrle and Pettitte are tied for fifth place with their equivalent 48 points giving them each a 5.33 average finish.  Further back is Morris with 55 points and a 6.11 average finish while Sabathia is dead last with 56 points and a 6.22 average.

Morris’ seventh place rank is not surprising since his 3.90 ERA is the highest among Hall of Fame pitchers.  Nevertheless, Morris’ Hall of Fame case was greatly strengthened by his stellar World Series performances during the 1984 and 1991 Fall Classics, each of which played a role in his election to Cooperstown.  However, Sabathia’s last place finish is a somewhat unexpected.  During the final season of his career, Sabathia joined the prestigious 3,000-strikeout club while also reaching the secondary milestone of 250 wins.  Reaching these dual milestones will undoubtedly help Sabathia draw support when he becomes eligible to appear on the BBWAA ballot in four years.  That being said, Sabathia’s low ranking is due, in part, to his pitching several seasons past his prime.  With 3577.1 innings pitched, Sabathia ranks second among the eight hurlers, behind only Morris’ 3824 frames.  This longevity enabled Sabathia to reach the 250-win/3000-strikeout milestones but the quantity he added also came at the expense of quality as, over the final seven seasons of his career, the hurler often struggled to pitch at a league average level, going 60-59 with a 4.33 ERA while posting a pedestrian ERA+ of 97.  Moreover, during Sabathia’s final seven campaigns, the veteran was the beneficiary of 16 cheap wins and saved from a staggering 31 potential losses compared to being the victim of 14 tough losses with just 5 potential wins lost.

While Hudson’s 3.89 average finish and fourth place ranking puts him in the neighborhood of Schilling and Mussina, many of the popular sabermetric stats such as WAR and JAWS judge the sinkerball-specialist’s career value as being closer to his contemporaries, Buehrle, Pettitte, and Sabathia.  Nevertheless, with Hudson’s strong overall showing in the nine categories, the righty sets himself apart from Buehrle and Pettitte, whom he is slated to share the upcoming ballot with.  Hudson also distinguishes himself from Sabathia, who will be eligible for the 2025 vote.  In addition, Hudson’s solid ranking and the edge he holds over three of his contemporaries underscores the validity of his 222 victories and .625 win-loss percentage.  Wins may be devalued by some in the baseball community, however, the rarely seen combination of Hudson’s victory total and win-loss percentage are key elements of a Hall of Fame-caliber career that should one day earn the hurler a bronze plaque in Cooperstown.

----by John Tuberty 

Follow me on Twitter @BloggerTubbs

Sources:  Baseball Reference, Baseball Reference Stathead, Fangraphs, MLB, Cooperstown Cred Andy Pettitte article, Cooperstown Cred CC Sabathia article

Cards:  Tim Hudson 2002 SP Authentic, Mark Buehrle 2002 Upper Deck Ballpark Idols, CC Sabathia 2010 Topps, Roy Halladay 2006 Fleer Ultra, Mike Mussina 1996 Topps, Andy Pettitte 1996 Fleer, Curt Schilling 2000 Upper Deck Pros & Prospects, Jack Morris 1984 Fleer, Tim Hudson 2007 Upper Deck, Tim Hudson 2014 Bowman Chrome, Tim Hudson 2002 Topps Reserve, Tim Hudson 2006 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Update, Curt Schilling 2004 Fleer Ultra, Mike Mussina 2003 Upper Deck First Pitch

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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Funny Baseball Cards and Silly Captions, Volume 7


Charlie Hough 1988 Topps Revco League Leaders

“Veteran pitcher Charlie Hough only agreed to appear on this Revco card after the drugstore company promised to give him 15% off his vitamins, Fixodent, Geritol, Metamucil, and Werther’s Original.”



Rick Dempsey 1983 Topps

“Rick Dempsey was known as something of a goofball during his career but the Baltimore Orioles catcher was actually sneaky brilliant. Here he’s using his 9th inning ‘gotta pee’ stance to subconsciously get the umpire to give him close pitches for strikes to get the game over with.”



Pete Vuckovich 1986 Topps

“I’m not gonna be the one to tell Pete Vuckovich that he has a bowl-cut mullet.”



Junior Felix 1993 Classic Update Blue Travel Edition

“Mired in an 0 for 26 slump, Junior Felix got so desperate that after taking a full count borderline pitch for a called third strike, he tried to row, row, row, his way gently down to first base.”



Rob Murphy 1990 Upper Deck

“During pregame warm ups, Rob Murphy couldn’t wait to download a picture of a bikini-clad Cindy Crawford to show his teammates from this thing called the World Wide Web. After the Red Sox won the game in extra innings, all that was downloaded of the picture was Crawford’s eyebrows. Finally six hours later, well after all his teammates had left the stadium, the picture finally finished downloading as an anxious Murphy sat alone in a dark clubhouse.”



Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla 1990 Topps

Back when they were teammates with the Pirates, Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla each visited a fortune teller and subsequently got in a debate over who would have the better future:


“Hey Bobby, I’m gonna win seven MVPs and you aren’t even gonna win one!


—“Well guess what, Barry? I’m gonna win a World Series ring in a closely-contested Game 7 and you’re gonna end your career with zero championship rings!”


“You think that’s great, Bobby-Bo? I’ll break Hank Aaron’s home run record six years after your lazy butt is retired!


—“Barry, I got ya beat—I’m gonna sign a contract that will not only make me the highest paid player in the game but also fetch me a million-plus per year until I’m 72!





Dave Kingman 1987 Topps

“I shudder to think what cruel prank Dave Kingman has played on some poor, unsuspecting soul to be laughing this hard.”

Kingman is remembered for being a one-dimensional slugger who hit towering home runs but struggled defensively, rarely walked, and struck out regularly while posting low batting averages. Kingman is also notorious for the cruel prank he played on Sacramento Bee reporter Susan Fornoff. In June 1986, while playing for the Oakland Athletics, Kingman sent Fornoff a corsage box with a live rat inside. The incident led to upper management souring on Kingman and was a major reason the club opted not to re-sign the slugger the following season.



Frank Zupo 1958 Topps

“During the 1950s, facial hair was frowned upon in the major leagues so some players like Frank Zupo grew unibrows as a symbol of defiance.”



Julio Franco 1990 Topps All-Star

“If you had the misfortune of lining out to Julio Franco, the second baseman would show you up by doing a goofy side-to-side dance move which was copied and popularized by MC Hammer.”



Zane Smith 1991 Topps

“Left-handed pitcher Zane Smith got so fed up with his teammates that he decided to post his grievances on a clipboard:


I. The playing of Winger & Warrant in the clubhouse must stop immediately!


II. Crop-dusting is only okay for farmers!


III. Please stop giving me hot foot when I’m on the phone with my financial advisor!


IV. Peeing in the shower is not an acceptable form of victory celebration!”



Rob Dibble 1992 Score Dream Team

“I was going to make fun of this card but then I realized there was a 0.001% chance that Rob Dibble might read this, so I decided against it.”



Gary Lucas 1987 Topps and Jim Rice 1990 Upper Deck

“First pitch? You sure, Jim?”

—“Trust me, Gary. I’m three years in the future. You hit Gedman with your first pitch in Game 5 of the ALCS.”

I’m not sure how 1986 Gary Lucas and 1989 Jim Rice are communicating between baseball cards three years apart from two different manufacturers but nevertheless here it is.



Brian Dayett 1986 Topps

“During his 1928 Presidential Campaign, one of Herbert Hoover’s slogans was ‘A chicken in every pot.’ For their 1986 set, Topps’ slogan should’ve been ‘A Brian Dayett in every pack.’”


----by John Tuberty

Follow me on Twitter @BloggerTubbs

Sources: SF Gate


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