The Greatness of Tom Glavine

Every career in the history of baseball, every life that’s ever been lived — they all could’ve turned out differently, unrecognizably differently, given one little change along the way. Sometimes, you have to search for what those changes could’ve been. Other times, they flash in blinding neon. Tom Glavine was born in 1966. In June of 1984, he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves. In June of 1984, he was also drafted by the Los Angeles Kings. The Braves chose him 47th, while the Kings chose him 69th, ahead of some future superstars. There was the opportunity for Glavine to play hockey and go to college for free. He chose, with some difficulty, to go where baseball might lead him. On this day, he’s become all but an official Hall-of-Famer.

Frank Thomas is going into the Hall of Fame. The talent of Frank Thomas was obvious from the beginning. Thomas left no doubt in any observer’s mind that he was one of the best hitters there ever was. Greg Maddux is going into the Hall of Fame. Maddux had plenty of talent, and also the dedication to maximize it. Maddux required a bit of a longer look, but it was immediately apparent he could do things with the baseball others just couldn’t. Tom Glavine is going into the Hall of Fame. Glavine didn’t have Thomas’ gilded skillset, and he didn’t have Maddux’s ability to miss bats and hit gnats. Glavine’s greatest strength was getting something extraordinary out of considerably duller parts.

What was the story with Tom Glavine? This place is called FanGraphs, but we only infrequently call upon the graphs that’ve been there from the start. This seems like as good a chance as any. Given: Tom Glavine is getting voted into the Hall of Fame. Now, here’s how Glavine’s strikeouts compared to the league average over his career:

Here’s how Glavine’s walks compared to the league average over his career:

So, here’s how Glavine’s K/BB ratios compared to the league average over his career:

Nothing in there is terrible, but at the same time, nothing in there shrieks and cries “greatness”. Glavine wound up with a more or less average ratio of strikeouts to walks. He threw a slightly below-average rate of strikes, he threw a below-average rate of first-pitch strikes, and he allowed a higher-than-average rate of contact. Look at many of his numbers, and you’d figure that Glavine was a guy who was just good enough to hang around for long enough to stick in people’s memories. He was most certainly durable, and teams have always been suckers for durable lefties.

But there are other numbers. Here’s how Glavine’s homers compared to the league average over his career:

Here’s how Glavine’s stranded runners compared to the league average over his career:

Here’s how Glavine’s BABIPs compared to the league average over his career:

So, here’s how Glavine’s ERAs compared to the league average over his career:

Glavine finished with well over 4,000 innings, all as a starter, and his run prevention was 14% better than average, which is another way of saying he had an 86 ERA-. Between 1991 and 2006, he had two years in which his ERA started with a four. That same span saw him start 530 games, plus extra time in the playoffs. Glavine allowed a good but unremarkable career batting average. He was much better in the area of slugging percentage, particularly when there were runners on base. What Glavine did, basically, was make an entire career out of beating his own peripherals.

Which is how he finished with a WAR of 64, but an RA9-WAR of 88. Leo Mazzone referred to Glavine as a modern-day Whitey Ford. Ford finished with a WAR of 55, but an RA9-WAR of 81. Fans today are always looking for pitchers who might be capable of sustainably beating their own indicators. Most of the time, there’s nothing there. Glavine did it for two decades. He did it by genuinely inducing worse contact, and he did it by genuinely changing his game in certain situations.

How did Glavine do it, after a somewhat shaky start to his career? Because he started so long ago, we can’t perform our usual analysis. Based on this picture, and then this one, it seems like Glavine might’ve raised his arm angle as he got older. He discovered his trademark changeup more or less by accident, and then that became his primary offspeed pitch since he never really trusted either of his breaking balls. He was a lefty who threw from the third-base side of the rubber, unlike most lefties, and that gave him a bit of an edge against right-handed bats. And there were the stories about his strike zone. In the long era before PITCHf/x, Glavine was a guy who made us all pine for something like PITCHf/x.

People used to claim that Glavine would get strikes 6-8 inches off the plate outside. And I’m not referring to lefty strikes, either, as we currently understand them, since Glavine faced relatively few left-handed hitters. The glimpses of late-career data we do have suggest that Glavine lived low and away against righties, and low and away against lefties. The thing is that he did that consistently. With his fastballs and his changeup, Glavine routinely attacked the same areas, allowing his catchers to expand the zone. And though Glavine never posted exceptional walk rates, that shouldn’t be confused for mediocre command. What Glavine was able to do was center the baseball in the catcher’s glove. And if that catcher were set up at or beyond the edge of the strike zone, sometimes that would mean balls, but that would also mean called strikes or strikes that hitters would struggle to drive. Glavine lived his career on the edge, in more ways than one, and he was good enough to not waver. He refused to come over the middle, and his results speak for themselves.

Interestingly, with no one on base, Glavine averaged about five strikeouts per two walks, and he allowed a .128 ISO. With runners in scoring position, he averaged barely 1.2 strikeouts per one unintentional walk, and he allowed a .104 ISO. Glavine was even more extreme about the edges when hits could hurt him, conceivably allowing him to strand more runners. Throw in his quality defense and his ability to suppress the running game, and it becomes apparent how Glavine was able to achieve all that he did. In theory, the model works. Few are able to perform up to the theory, but Glavine did it.

In 1999, there was talk that a smaller strike zone league-wide was really hurting Glavine and pitchers of his sort. Nevermind that that was Glavine’s age-33 season. From that point forward, he had seven more years of a sub-100 ERA-, and six of those were sub-90. Two were sub-80. Glavine was bad at the end, when he went on the disabled list for the first time, but he was also 42. Glavine pitched on both sides of the steroid era, and he thrived in between.

It’s worth noting that, if Tom Glavine belongs in the Hall of Fame, the same goes for Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling. Glavine pitched longer, but Mussina and Schilling posted numbers that were more striking, and extra credit shouldn’t be given for a greater number of only half-decent innings. Glavine didn’t struggle for this position, either, going in on the first ballot. Given that precedent, there should be no question regarding the other two. But that’s something for another day.

For this day, it’s about Tom Glavine. A lot of players in the Hall of Fame were able to become Hall of Famers because they possessed Hall of Fame level raw talent. Big giant fastballs or big giant curveballs or big giant arms that swung big giant bats. Tom Glavine’s going in with a fastball that spent the bulk of his career at or below 90 miles per hour. Yet, don’t make the mistake of asserting Glavine wasn’t unusually gifted. He was gifted, in a different way — he was able to work hard enough, long enough, to do what he did with what he had. He’s the kind of player who makes people believe they could be ultra-successful if they just gave more, if they just dedicated themselves completely. But most people can’t do that. Glavine could. That was his gift. And now he’s receiving the honor he earned.

Tom Glavine was one of the best while seldom really looking like it. That’s not an easy thing to be for a year. That’s not an easy thing to be for 20 of them.




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87 Responses to “The Greatness of Tom Glavine”

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  1. Compton says:

    Sullivan-Cameron: The Glavine-Maddux of baseball analysis.

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  2. Anthony says:

    Longevity and Durability got him in the HOF. I’d take Schilling, Mussina AND Brown over him in their primes, but I guess the arbitrary 300 win mark is what gets Glavine in first ballot. Glavine was over-rated imo.

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    • Dan Greer says:

      All of them belong in the hall.

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    • jim says:

      thankfully it’s not an either-or, and we can enjoy ALL of their FG pages!

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    • Daniel says:

      Glavine was not overrated… He is a hall of famer no if’s and’s but’s about it.. and I don’t think you should dismiss any part of his career, he is a proven winner

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    • Daniel says:

      And there is something to be said about longevity of greatness too by the way… compare him to the other lefty’s out there… Period

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      • AB says:

        Glavine’s the man, but it is possible to be both a hall of famer and overrated. If you told me the opportunity of enshrining Cox, Maddux, and Glavine together didn’t play on the heart strings of the voters, well good sir, I would disagree.

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  3. tcnjsteve says:

    Glavine is a very interesting case. Based on his ability to beat his peripherals, he was an excellent pitcher for a very long time. He has 2 Cy Young awards to his name (not sure how much of the award vote came from his win totals though. Yet, he just doesn’t strike me as dominant. I mean, I wouldn’t pay to go to a ballpark to watch Glavine get a two-out grounder to third to strand a guy every other inning. If I were playing a video game I wouldn’t be excited to ‘unlock’ Glavine so I could throw changeups to the outside corner. I’m not trying to say he wasn’t great…it’s just that he was so differently great than most other HoF pitchers.

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    • NRJyzr says:

      >>He has 2 Cy Young awards to his name (not sure how much of the award vote came from his win totals though).<<

      In 1991, Glavine led the NL in RA9 WAR, IP, was 3rd in ERA, and won 20 games (Smiley the other 20 game winner).

      In 1998, Glavine was 3rd in RA9 WAR (behind Maddux, and marginally behind Kevin Brown), 4th in ERA, 10th in IP, with a 20-6 record (only pitcher to win 20).

      For what it's worth…

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  4. The Greatness says:

    It’s a joke that Glavine is a near unanimous HOFer and Mussina only got 20%.

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    • Daniel says:

      I think everybody knew Mussina wasn’t a Hall of famer this time… ,and I am sure that Everybody knew Tom Glavine was a Hall of Famer this time.

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      • AB says:

        Similarly, everyone knows that this recent cold spell disproves global warming.

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        • William Hargis says:

          Perhaps you should research what causes a polar vortex and come to a different conclusion. They made a movie about a polar vortex although in typical fashion hollywood got it backwards.

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        • Bobby Ayala says:

          Thank you, William. After researching as you suggested I discovered that next summer’s heat wave proves global warming.

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    • TKDC says:

      The only part of that is a joke is the second part.

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    • Daniel says:

      Mussina being that low though, you’re right is a travesty along with Shilling

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      • Eric says:

        Pre-sabermetrics, the best statistic to judge pitchers by was ERA, and Mussina’s ERA was pretty mediocre by historical standards. This is of course because he lived in a hitters’ era, but even in his era, Pedro Martinez and several NL pitchers had much better ERAs. So besides WAR totals, there is nothing in particular to distinguish him.

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  5. Dan Greer says:

    My favorite player of all-time, and I think you captured exactly why with this quote – “He’s the kind of player who makes people believe they could be ultra-successful if they just gave more, if they just dedicated themselves completely.” As a kid, I had aspirations of playing baseball past high school. Looking back, I probably wasn’t talented enough even with all of the right breaks. But I always believed that I could, and that was important to me. He got all he could out of his talent, and that’s the most worthy goal of all.

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  6. John Thacker says:

    He also was a very good hitter at his position, worth about 7.5 bWAR batting, something that many people leave out when comparing him to other pitchers. Strangely, some people who otherwise talk about the importance of positional adjustment try to find reasons to say that it isn’t “fair” to give him credit for something that, say, Mussina didn’t “have the opportunity to do.”

    He helped his team win through the bat as well.

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    • Matthew Cornwell says:

      Importantly, in a HOF debate, we are comparing Glavine to the HOF standard; the history of the MLB standard, one in which a massive majority of players in the pool do not have the AL-only-in-DH-era issue.

      Pitcher hitting should always be counted, unless a Mussina is being directly compared to a Glavine, for example.

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      • bstar says:

        I still think you include it when comparing Glavine to DH-era AL pitchers.

        Ultimately, Tom Glavine’s opposite-field singles and sac bunts (#1 all-time by a country mile) DID help the Braves win games. Omitting this value in a direct comparison to Mike Mussina seems more of an injustice than the injustice of Mussina never getting the chance to do the same (IMHO).

        It’s kind of like postseason play. Do we omit entirely Mo Rivera’s postseason accomplishments because other relievers didn’t get to pitch as much in the postseason? Of course not.

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  7. Matthew Cornwell says:

    Glavine manged over 55 total WAR (BBRef) in his top 10 seasons, and would have had five 6+ WAR seasons if not for the shortened 1995. And this was without the benefit of super-high replacement value that earlier pitchers received. In fact, his 46 WAA is 20th all-time for pitchers and 60th all-time for all players. That is WAA, not WAR. The Glavine-as-compiler myth is just not true. Was he as good as Mussina or Schilling? Probably not, but he is still pushing top-30 pitchers all-time. Congratulations, Tom! You earned this honor!

    By the way, as far as outperforming his peripherals, here is a rough breakdown of where his runs saved vs. average came from:

    Ks: -140
    BBs/Hitbat: 60
    HRs: 190
    BABIP: 60 (compared to mates – a lot probably due to his defense)
    SB/PO: 30
    GIDB: 20
    WP: 30
    Seq (LOB): 60
    batt: 70 (over pitcher)

    The moral of the story is: you can be a HOF pitcher if you have below-average K rates as long as you are above average at EVERYTHING else.

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  8. jpomrenke says:

    I’m with Dan … as a left-handed pitcher growing up who couldn’t throw very hard, I got a lot of inspiration out of watching Glavine’s inexplicable brilliance on the mound. I think a lot of fans today sometimes forget that great pitchers in earlier eras found ways to win that wouldn’t necessarily work in the current game. Glavine wasn’t pretty, and his peripherals weren’t dominant, but he did his job as well as anyone during his long peak.

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  9. QuinnM says:

    Glavine and Biggio’s vote totals really show that for all the negativity that the old-school writers put on nerds and their numbers that they sure do love themselves some shiny round numbers.

    I think Glavine is absolutely a Hall of Famer and am glad he got elected, if for nothing else than to clear the ballot, but I just don’t see how his overall resume is THAT that much better than Schilling’s and Mussina’s other than he got to 300.

    Same with Biggio, I think he’s a borderline case, and would probably never get my vote due to the glut of other candidates. I just don’t see how his overall body of work is THAT that differentiated from Trammell, Edgar, Palmeiro or Walker…apart from sticking around for 3,000.

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    • Preston says:

      Even if it was all about wins, Mussina is better than Glavine. Mussina won 63.8% of his decisions and got the win in 50.3% of his starts. Glavine got the win in 60% of his decisions and 44.7% of his starts. The only difference is Mussina retired at 39 (after an excellent season finishing 6th for the CYA) and Glavine continued until 42. If Mussina had returned to the Yankees for three more seasons he would have been a mortal lock for those 300 wins. Those teams scored a lot of runs. AJ Burnett posted a 4.79 era from 2009-11 and still walked away with 34 wins with those Yankees.

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      • Ian R. says:

        There’s a BIG assumption there, which is that Mussina would have stayed healthy and effective for his age-40, 41 and 42 seasons. Remember that although he was very good in his last season, he’d been bad just a year before that.

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  10. Daniel says:

    Curt Schilling > Glavine, 8 days a week.

    It’s actually depressing Glavine is in but mythical talents like Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, McGwire, Piazza, ect, are not.

    Glavine’s xFIP was 4.59!!!! Let me say that again — 4.59!! Having the greatest defensive OF’er of all time goes a loooong way. Especially for someone who couldn’t strike batters out and has a lousy 1.74 K/BB ratio

    Schilling has 4.38, the number one K/BB ratio of all time

    Schilling also has 82.3 WAR — that’s immortal for SPs and he has the Bloody Sock and Game 7 with Arizona

    Camus level of absurdity

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      xFIP is unfair for Glavine (and all these older pitchers) since it only uses stats at the end of his career (2002 on) when he was in decline. Besides why would you want to regress HR rate for the evaluation of a pitchers career. He DID give up less HR’s than average, we aren’t interested in predictive stats like xFIP in this setting.

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    • TKDC says:

      xFIP is a garbage stat for a 20 year career. Glavine pitched a ton more than Schilling. Like Kershaw’s entire career’s worth of innings more. And his ERA was .08 higher. Over a career, ERA is much better than xFIP (by no means a be all end all, but better than xFIP). xFIP is for projecting future performance, not really for judging past performance. Is Trout not that good because his BaBIP is really high? If you think Schilling is better, fine. There is a good argument there. But your hyperbole would be better over at Yahoo, buddy.

      And I’m not sure what exactly makes one a “mythical talent,” but two of those are not like the other three, and we all know why those two did not make it.

      And while we are throwing individual games out there, ever catch game 6 of the 95 world series?

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      • Daniel says:

        Too bad we’ll never see what Glavine’s ERA would be without the 6 inches he got almost every start on BOTH sides of the plate. 6 inches both sides and he still had BB/9 over 3.

        His FIP, which is calculated for his entire career, is .5 runs higher than ERA.

        Why? Andruw Jones. It’s called “fielding independent” for a reason.

        You want Glavine in the HoF? Fine. But don’t insult my intelligence and not FIRST put in the 10-12 guys on the ballot who had more talent.

        I’d love to see a study that shows how much Jones and the rest of the defense deflated Glavine’s ERA (if the FIP isn’t enough for ya).

        Glavine struck out batters at a pathetic rate, had shoddy command, and benefited from some of the best defense baseball has ever seen and a strike zone more generous than Mother Teresa during Lent.

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        • Matthew Cornwell says:

          TZ and UZR, etc. show the Braves defense only saved Glavine about 30-50 runs over his career.

          Jones was only his primary CF for 6 years. Out of 22. Don’t forget all of the horrific defenses Glavine had behind him before 1992 and in NY.

          Asa somebody said, Tom Tango and othersd have shown that ERA is a better indicator of skill than FIP after about 7-8 seasons. You know, after BABIP, LOB%, etc. have all had a chance to reach r=.5.

          Nobody has held a hard-and-fast McCracken viewpoint on DIPS for 12 years.

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        • niggaplease says:

          too bad we’ll never see one of your posts without the butthurt

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  11. Schlom says:

    I’m unclear on why people are using fWAR instead of RA9-WAR to rank pitchers over their careers. Preventing runs in the most important thing a pitcher can do and as someone pointed out above FIP is best used as a predictor for the future, not what has already happened.

    Here’s the rank by RA9-WAR: http://goo.gl/Zr4d1J

    Glavine is 29th overall (and 17th amongst “modern pitchers”), comfortably above Mussina, Schilling, and Kevin Brown whereas by fWAR he is well behind that trio.

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    • DetroitMichael says:

      FIP also measures what has already happened. The difference between using RA9 WAR and fWAR for pitchers depends on how you want to portion out runs prevented between pitchers and defense.

      RA9 WAR gives pitchers all the credit for runs prevented and the defense behind him none. fWAR gives the defense all the credit for runs prevented on batted balls and the pitcher none.

      Both account for what actually happened over a pitcher’s career, taking both into account will give you a better picture of a player’s worth than ignoring one and assuming that either the pitcher or the defense had no impact on run prevention on batted balls.

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  12. mike wants wins says:

    Tom Glavine and how umpires gave him calls that no other pitchers got is why I stopped watching baseball for a few years. Either the rules are the same for everyone, or it is not a fair competition.

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    • bstar says:

      mike: those extra inches off the outside corner were there for any pitcher to claim.

      Glavine and Maddog were easily the two best at it. The only other pitcher I can recall being skilled enough to get those calls was Mike Hampton when he was with the Astros.

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      • The zone was low and wide for everybody. Glavine got the extra calls because he threw there on almost every pitch.

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        • mike wants wins says:

          Doesn’t make it right. The rules are the rules…..no one should “earn” the right to get calls that are outside the rules. YMMV, you may not care. That’s cool. It’s just sports…..

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        • Matthew Cornwell says:

          I never said they earned free-bees. They kept hitting the spots over and over that the umpires were giving everybody. It was a payoff for Glavine who always threw it low and outside. The strikezones didn’t change (much at least) because they were pitching.

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      • Chicago Mark says:

        I disagree bstar. There was many a game I watched on TBS and asked why the opposing pitcher didn’t get the same outside calls as Maddox or Glavine. Part of it was they were consistant with these pitches. Part of it was Cox….and Maddox beating up the umpires on non-calls.
        I guess I gave the answer. But these other pitchers were not allowed to claim these areas.
        Ps. Please don’t read my post as negative to either pitcher. They used what was given to them. And they are both deserving of their awards.
        Damn Maddox for leaving Chicago!!!

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        • Well your naked eye view combined with the media perception at the time combined with a maybe not perfect camera angle proves it!

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        • Chicago Mark says:

          You need to tell Mike and bstar and Matt the same thing Antonio. Shoot, we should just delete this whole part of the thread because of our naked eyes and camera angles and media perceptions. Damn us all for this part of the discussion. You’re a genius. Thank you!

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  13. pft says:

    The bias for NL SP’ers continues. Of the 13 primarily SP’ers voted into the HOF since 1990 who pitched in the DH era, 10 of them pitched primarily in the NL. Only Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan and Bert Blyleven were deemed worthy from the AL. All but 1 of these pitchers were white. In fact, every HOF SP from the AL is white. Luis Tiant weeps.

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    • Aquafina says:

      I hope he keeps weeping because there’s no need for affirmative action in the Hall of Fame.

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    • HOF another racist institution says:

      in the minds of most of the HOF voters, all/most of the best players in baseball history played before integration

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      • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

        as has been said before, a lot of that is on the Veterans’ Committee, specifically during the Frankie Frisch years.

        Also, although it’s hard to imagine, baseball’s been played since ~1880, and integration happened ~1950, so the majority of the (MLB) baseball that has ever been played was pre-integration. Hence, if we are deciding “best” relative to peers, a small majority of the best players ought to be pre-integration.

        Add in the fact that a lot of the most recent players haven’t been inducted yet, somewhat on account of the Steroid Era, and that’s how you get to “most of the best players in baseball history played before integration”.

        But yes, there’s probably some racism going on as well. What percent of the BBWAA is non-white? Probably not much.

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  14. Matt T. says:

    Glavine himself talked about the changing zone. In an interview with Fox for the ’06 NLCS, he explained how the “east-west” zone of his first couple of years changed to a “north-south” zone over time.

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  15. Phantom Stranger says:

    He gave hope to every soft-tossing lefty in the country. He was tough as nails and never gave in, even when he was outmatched by the hitter.

    A clear Hall of Famer that I loved to watch pitch. Many more pitchers have had better stuff and didn’t achieve his results.

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  16. David Pearl says:

    One of the things I got from this article: Andruw Jones should go to the Hall of Fame.

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  17. The Humber Games says:

    Wow, look at his career xFIP. I wonder how many ‘regression is coming!’ Articles this guy would’ve spawned…just shows there’s still plenty to baseball we haven’t quantified yet

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    • Apparently there are a few people out there that still do not trust the 2 decades of outperforming his peripherals. Doesn’t seem to matter how many studies show that pitcher impact on BABiP, HR/FB, and LOB% can be quantified (to a significant degree) given a large enough pitching sample.

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      • The Humber Games says:

        This will be fascinating to watch when we’ve reached the point where we can evaluate an entire career like Glavine’s through the lens of data like pitch fx – you can certainly make conclusions based on 20 years’ of ‘outperforming peripherals’ but the interesting thing to see would be just how he did it.

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      • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

        amen… It’d be nice if there was some work towards quantifying it in small samples, too.

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      • GilaMonster says:

        I believe he might have had a certain skill. But put it this way. From 2010-2013, Jered Weaver and Felix Hernandez have had a similar numbers. But I think we could reach an unanimous the Felix Hernandez is the better pitcher.

        I just think putting Glavine in on the first ballot and not Schilling/Mussina/Kevin Brown doesn’t make sense. They were more dominant. More fun to watch. Played in tougher leagues…etc. It is just the BBWAA doesn’t make sense. I though this was because they love longevity and wins. But Sandy Koufax have 5 good seasons, barely squeaked over 2000 IP, and didn’t win 200 games.

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        • I’d take Mussina and Schilling over Glavine, but Glavine has more WAR, and WAA than Brown and his just a hair under Brown in top 5 or top 7 year WAR. Glavine was a much better postseason pitcher to push him ahead.

          I’d take all four over Smoltz, who is a HOFer in his own right, of course.

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    • jonnybardo says:

      We get to see those articles, just for a different (but similar) player. See: Weaver, Jered.

      Glavine is the “WAR Killer,” so is Weaver. WAR just doesn’t account for what they do well, and what they do well is repeated year after year so isn’t just fluke or random variation.

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      • Matthew Cornwell says:

        Well, FIP based versions, at least. RA versions pick up on Glavine’s non-peripheral skills just fine.

        There are exceptions like Glavine and Palmer and Ford and Cain, etc. We just always have to remember that outliers do not change the general truths to DIPS theory.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          “We just always have to remember that outliers do not change the general truths to DIPS theory.”

          I disagree. If a theory says, “only some events can be controlled by pitchers, all other events are random”, and then, using statistics, you can show that, in fact, the other events are under some control by pitchers, then the theory is dis-proven. It’s been falsified, in a Popperian sense.

          You then have to change the theory. The popular “change” that has been made is a variant of special pleading, that is, “The theory works but just not for some guys.”

          I find that deeply unsatisfying. The more probable truth, to my mind, is that the theory doesn’t work generally, but the errors basically even out for most of the population, so you only see statistically significant problems for the extreme cases.

          I like DIPS a lot, but I do think it’s time to explore when and why it fails, instead of just waiting for pitchers to get large enough samples that their fWAR and bWAR diverge significantly, and then saying “wow, this guy must be one of the exceptions”.

          FWIW, which is … nothing.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          … to follow up on this with some evidence instead of opinions, of the top 10 pitchers by bWAR, something like 5-7 (depending on how you count) have large deviations between their bWAR and fWAR (the ones who don’t have any deviation, interestingly, are the power pitchers R. Johnson and Clemens). You can use any number of criteria to define large: 10 WAR, or 10% of their career value, or whatever. There are big differences. At what point does this stop becoming an “outlier” problem?

          (I recognize that the top 10 pitchers ever is a highly biased sample, but also a sample that’s very interesting and worth understanding)

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        • Matthew Cornwell says:

          The theory IS that DIPS works for a majority of pitchers but not everybody.

          Current DIPS theory is not that of Voros McCracken – well for everybody except for that Daniel guy.

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        • Matthew Cornwell says:

          At what point is there an outlier problem? I don’t know.

          But we would expect those with less deviation to be power pitchers since most non-peripheral events are contact-related.

          DIPS was also a whole different ballgame back in W. Johnson and Young’s time. I am not sure if we can tell anything from that sample.

          I really think we are having a semantics discussion here. We both think FIP, etc. does not capture some real skill that many (but I would not say a majority) have.

          In its functional present, DIPS just says that most pitchers have less influence on BABIP and sequencing that what we once thought and because of that, extremes in BABIP and LOB%, etc. (and therefore, ERA) are subject to great regression from year to year.

          Are we all on the same page, there?

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          “In its functional present, DIPS just says that most pitchers have less influence on BABIP and sequencing that what we once thought and because of that, extremes in BABIP and LOB%, etc. (and therefore, ERA) are subject to great regression from year to year.”

          The way you’ve said that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. I would say that we can make more specific statements with new evidence.

          We can say that some types of contact limit BABIP, such as out of zone contact; so pitchers who throw there can control their BABIP in that way. Similarly, we can say that some pitchers show marked inability to pitch well with runners on base, and this probably contributes to worse outcomes than expected given fWAR.

          Generally, I think we are mostly on the same page, but differ in terms of how it should be approached from here on. I think FIP-WAR is a poor statistic, for both prediction (which SIERA/xFIP/others do better) and for summary of past performance (as in Glavine’s case). It should be retired, IMO, but that idea has tended to get great pushback from everyone (up to and including Tango, Cameron, and others).

          Moreover, I think now that its clear pitchers do have some control over LOB% and BABIP and so on, we ought to quantify that control and see how they do it.

          So much of the analysis on this site tends away from that, towards just saying “Pitcher X seems to have pitched above/below their peripherals for a long/short time, so we can probably expect that to continue/regress.” Whereas it should be, “Pitcher X seems to have pitched above/below their peripherals. Why? Which of his pitches tend to drive below-average BABIP and in what situations? Is he unusually adept at defending against base-stealers? etc., etc.” And building on that, “Pitchers with certain pitch mixes Y or Z tend to have lower BABIPs generally.” Some of the articles are like this (especially from Jeff Sullivan), and I want to see more of them.

          But then again, I’m complaining about the wonderful free content that is Fangraphs, which is somewhat silly. Just seems to me there is a better way out there, maybe.

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  18. Anthony says:

    Glavine is a class act! 5 – 20 win seasons, 2 Cy’s, 10 AS Games, etc. He deserves this for sure. He was voted in (hard thing to do), less than 100 all-time have been voted in.

    Glavine and Maddux were a different breed of pitcher, the Control Artist. A much needed skill to navigate the steroid era. I am willing to bet that both of them could hit the outside corner with their eyes closed. And yeah they got some calls out there, but umpires loved these guys cause games moved along swiftly. Both also had effortless mechanics when pitching. It will be a while before a Control Artist appears quite like this pair.

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  19. GilaMonster says:

    I agree. The whole issue here is the old longevity vs. peak/dominance. Glavine was very very good for a long time. But I wouldn’t have he was dominant. He is the anti Pedro in a way. Pedro didn’t pitch for a long time, but his peak was otherworldly. I think we can all agree Pedro is probably a top 5 pitcher of all time, despite never hitting 3000 innings/300 wins. I feel strikeouts are probably the single best measure of a pitcher. Guys like Pedro gets credit for dominance(K/9) while pitchers like Maddux get credit for IP

    I think Randy Johnson is kinda in between. He pitched 4000+ innings. Not exactly consistent, but his peak was unbelievable .

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    • Matthew Cornwell says:

      Glavine was no Pedro, but he did have 55 total brWAR in his top 10 years with what would have been five 6+ WAR seasons if not for the 1995 stoppage. His 5-year WAR is close to 35. His career WAA is 46, which is around 20th all-time for pitchers. Compilers don’t reach 45+ WAA.

      Again, he was certainly not peaking like the Big 4 of his era, but very few in history did. His peak was very much in line with middle tier HOFers. it was certainly much better than guys like Sutton, whom I have seen a lot of people compare him too. the lack-of-peak angle with Glavine is a little farfetched, IMO. I would not pick Glavine as the anti-Pedro example. I would pick guys like John (albeit not a HOFer) or Wynn or Sutton for that.

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      • Matthew Cornwell says:

        Sorry, Gila. Just to clarify, I wasn’t insinuating that you were calling him a compiler. My comments were focused on the sometimes vocal group that says he was.

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        • GilaMonster says:

          I’m not really saying Glavine isn’t a Hall of Famer. But the fact that he is a first ballot hall of famer while guys like Mussina and Schilling don’t come close shows what the BBWAA values. They value wins over strikeouts. Cy Young Awards over actually numbers. They value longevity over apparent dominance.

          Glavine was a HoF pitcher. But he wasn’t a guy where you might as well just leave the bat on your shoulder because you couldn’t do anything. Or a pitcher that caused you to wet your pants when you saw his fastball.

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        • Matthew Cornwell says:

          Assuming the non-peripherals can be trusted, I don’t care abhe got outs. Glavine was a notch behind Schilling and Mussina, not because he didn’t strike fear into people as much, but because he wasn’t quite as good at getting people out. Now, his lack of Ks are a part of that, but I would disagree that he was not dominant in 1991 and 1998 just because his K rate wasn’t Shilling-esque. I would say he wasn’t as dominant as Schilling because at his best he didn’t get guys out as well.

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  20. Andrew J says:

    I’d be curious how helpful it is in hall of fame voting to play for the same team for a long period of time. Mussina and Schilling both had their prime years split between multiple teams which detracts from their nostalgia factor I think. Maybe players are penalized for being on multiple teams (though that doesnt explain Biggio and Bagwell being out). Thomas, Glavine and Maddux all played all of their prime years with the same team. Larkin had that advantage as well. People love a narrative and loyalty with one team probably contributes to that narrtive somewhat.

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  21. Carl says:

    What I feel we are not measuring (that really affects someone like Glavine) is RPM as well as relative speed (based on stride) and late vertical/horizontal movement which causes weaker contact.

    Someday I hope we will realize that K’s are overrated and pop-ups underrated.

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  22. Matthew Cornwell says:

    The real question about Glavine is not did he or did he not impact BABIP, HR.FB, etc, but how.

    We know that FB pitchers, K pitchers, and extreme GB pitchers all impact BABIP. Glavine was none of them. In fact, based on his batted ball profile alone, we would expect a worse-than-average BABIP. Yet even when we consider his good defense behind him, he still prevented 60 runs compared to mates. To quote the great Yukon Cornelius, DDS “Even among misfits, he’s a misfit.”

    First, much of it may be his defense, which was outstanding. Second, his BABIP with nobody on was right about league average-about what you would expect. His BABIP with runners in scoring position was much better, which is not surprising since he never actually hit the strikezone with runners in scoring position. Finally, a crazy % of the flyballs he allowed were opposite field, which have lower BABIP than pulled FB. That is due to always throwing outside. This also explains his amazing and amazingly consistent HR/FB rates. This also aligns with his pitching style which prevented so many runs via sequencing.

    We may be on to something here.

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  23. JJ says:

    Glavine got the benefit of a career’s worth of an expanded strike zone from umpires! The one time he was needed to win a clutch game for the Mets he choked – 7 runs in the 1st inning before an out was recorded. This over-rated piece of crap gets in the HOF and Jerry Koosman can’t even get his number retired!

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    • Matthew Cornwell says:

      The one time he needed a clutch win? Like down the stretch in 2006? Or the first games of the NLDS and NLCS in 2006? Or all of the great starts in August and early September in 2007?

      Glavine averaged over 3.5 WAR for the Mets from 2004-2007. As a near 40-year-old pitcher. The whole Game 162 in 2007 thing is so overblown. The Mets would be a lot better if they had more pitchers that crummy now.

      Is your “other” name Mongoose, by the way?

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  24. Hathorian says:

    overated. umpires were biased towards Maddux and Glavine.

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