I’ve done batters and starting pitchers so far in my series of articles on Hall of Fame snubs – but I have yet to do any relief pitchers. Relievers often get shortchanged when it comes to Hall of Fame discussion, because they are often considered less important or less skilled parts of a team. Of course, that argument seems logical – how can a player who pitches only an inning or two every other day be better than or more important than a hitter who plays nine innings every game 150 times a year, or a pitcher who throws six innings or more a game once or twice a week? It seems like relievers have the easier job – and, as such, they must be less skilled.
However, in today’s style of baseball, the reliever is just as important as any other player on a team. Indeed, teams need a talented core of pitchers who can take the ball from a starter after the sixth inning, and hold a lead – or at the very least, not exacerbate a bad situation that the previous pitcher got the team into. Truly, when a group of relievers fails, the team will fail. For it is up to the reliever to hold the lead, and if he can’t do that, the team will – obviously – have a harder chance at winning.
Throughout the history of baseball, there have been a great many excellent relievers. Some have had their share of Hall of Fame arguments – Lee Smith, the not yet eligible John Franco, among others – and yet others have gone through the annals of time with hardly a whisper of discussion. Pitchers like Kent Tekulve and Dan Quisenberry fall into the latter category, the category of “fondly remembered” but not “Hall of Fame discussed.” At least for Quisenberry, I’m going to change that.
Perhaps it’s because Quisenberry only played 12 seasons that he doesn’t garner much Hall of Fame discussion. Or, maybe it’s because he didn’t reach any magical plateaus – the most notable being 300 career saves. In fact, he didn’t even save 250 games in his career…so why the heck should he be in the Hall of Fame?
Because in his time, he was perhaps the best closer in the game. From 1980 to 1985 – a six season span – he led the league in saves five times, and the season he didn’t lead the league (the strike-shortened 1981), he came in third place. Now, some of you might call me a blasphemer and say that Bruce Sutter was the best relief pitcher of that era. True, Sutter was great – but was he really better than Quisenberry? Let’s compare.
Sutter and Quisenberry both played 12 seasons, and yet Sutter outpaced Quisenberry in saves by 56 and strikeouts by 482. So far, Sutter’s got the upper hand. Furthermore, Quisenberry allowed more than a hit per inning on average, while Sutter allowed only about 7.5 hits per nine innings pitched. Things aren’t looking good for Quisenberry.
Until now. Although Sutter and Quisenberry pitched nearly the exact same amount of innings (1,042 1/3 and 1,043 1/3, respectively) Sutter allowed 147 more walks and 13 more intentional passes. Sutter hit six more batters and threw a whopping 33 more wild pitches than Quisenberry. In my humble opinion, being the wilder pitcher (Sutter) is far worse than being the pitcher who strikes out less (Quisenberry).
In his five best seasons (in terms of save totals) combined, Quisenberry had 194 saves, while Sutter had only 177 saves. So, that means that in terms of best seasons, Quisenberry was the greater pitcher – the more Hall of Fame worthy one. Sutter was consistently good for a long time, which allowed him to collect more saves than Quisenberry, however that does not mean Sutter was the greater pitcher at his best. Finally, Quisenberry had the lower career ERA (2.76 to 2.83) and the higher career ERA+ (146 to 136; unlike ERA, ERA+ is better when it’s higher).
So, the basic argument here is – if Sutter, why not Quisenberry? As I have hopefully proven, Quisenberry was as good as – if not better than – Sutter, and therefore Quisenberry should be in the Hall of Fame. Right?
Even outside of the Quisenberry-Sutter argument, as well, Quisenberry certainly did plenty to make a case for himself. He was an All-Star three times, and he won the AL Rolaids Relief Award five times as well. Furthermore, he led the league in games pitched three times, games finished four times, and – as I mentioned earlier – saves five times. With his statistics, that certainly sounds like the making of a solid Hall of Famer to me.
Quisenberry was, it could be said, the American League Bruce Sutter. Because of that, one of Quisenberry’s biggest arguments for the Hall of Fame is – if Sutter, why not Quisenberry? Indeed, they were similar in many ways, although Quisenberry was just a tad better than Sutter overall, despite the fact that he trailed Sutter in career saves and strikeouts.
It truly is a shame that Quisenberry fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after receiving only 3.8% of the vote in his first year. It’s a shame that very few people consider his name for the Hall of Fame and a great many jumped with glee when Sutter was elected. That’s especially a shame, because Quisenberry is deserving even more so than Sutter.
Well, that’s the end of my series on players unfairly snubbed from the Hall of Fame. Just to recap, the players I covered were Dick Allen, Stan Hack, Sherry Magee, Billy Pierce, and now Dan Quisenberry.
Of course, there are many, many more players I could have covered, as there are many more that I believe worthy to be in the Hall of Fame.
More times than not, the Hall of Fame voters have gotten it right. They elect the right people, leaving out the undeserving and electing the deserving. Unfortunately, some players do fall through the cracks, while some less deserving players earn enshrinement.
Who are some players that you believe were unfairly left out of the Hall of Fame? I’d love to hear your opinions.
Tags: Baseball, Hall of Fame