In 1960, nobody was elected to the Hall of Fame. Nobody even received 60% of the vote (269 ballots were cast). Fascinatingly, there were 37 future Hall of Famers on the ballot to choose from. That’s 37, many of whom would eventually be inducted by the Veteran’s Committee. And yet, nobody could get in by ballot. Even crazier? According to today’s rules, Lefty Grove (2.2%) and Ralph Kiner (1.1%) would have been eliminated form future balloting after 1960. That’s a 300-game winner and a hitter who lead the league in homers 7 consecutive years. Luckily for them, the rules were different then.
Still, we can see that differing sensibilities and split votes made the balloting difficult to understand even in 1960. What caught my eye was a group of four pitchers who made me think of Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.
Eppa Rixey, Burleigh Grimes, Red Ruffing and Red Faber all received between 30.9 and 52.8% of the vote that year.This year, Mussina got 24.6% and Schilling 39.2%. Based on those numbers, only Rixey (52.8%) looked to have a shot at election. As it turns out, that group of four pitchers in 1960 all made it into the Hall… but they had to wait and do it the hard way. Ruffing was elected in his 15th and final ballot in 1967, while the other three were never voted in by ballot, but were chosen by Veterans Committees. Still, they were finally recognized.
Just like Rixey & Co. weren’t of the Walter Johnson variety, Schilling and Mussina aren’t of the Randy Johnson variety. Nobody expected them to get in quickly or easily. Yet, based on some past votes, and most specifically 1960, Schilling and Mussina can hold up very reasonable hope of at least being invited in by a Veterans Committee some day. Or, as in Ruffing’s case, perhaps they can slip in on a ballot where there are no other great pitchers from which to choose.
Much like my earlier comparison to some Hall of Fame greats, let’s take a quick look at how Schilling and Mussina measure up to the four on that ballot, guys generally considered second-tier HOFers.
They are in order of Games Started so as to not favor any other statistic (like fWAR). You can see immediately that Schilling and Mussina both match up extremely well, in fact surpassing the other four in most important categories. In addition to blowing them away in fWAR and in strikeouts, they both also have lower BB rates and lower WHIP.
I realize that back in the 30’s and 40’s, strikeouts weren’t as plentiful as they are now, but allowing walks has never been a way to win, and in this Schilling and Mussina top the others. When you look at adjusted ERA(-), you see that Schilling and Mussina again beat the rest. Even if you want to discount the fact that Schilling and Mussina pitched through the high-scoring steroid era, Schilling still has a better straight-up ERA than Grimes and Ruffing, and Mussina beats out Ruffing. Looking at old-school stats like Wins and Losses also favors Mussina, as he is right at the top of the list in Wins, but with a much better Winning%. Schilling has fewer Wins than the rest, but again also has far fewer Losses, also for a better Winning%.
My two main points in summary: Hall of Fame balloting has never been predictable or particularly sensible; and in this light (and gauging by the past), Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina both stand a strong chance of getting in one day. They might just have to wait a while.