The Hall of Fame has inducted many players who were borderline choices, and many players who deserve induction have been on the outside looking in. I want to look at some players to determine if they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
I believe that Luis Tiant is a borderline case. He managed to stay on the ballot for the full 15 years, and his name has now been turned over to the Veterans' Committee. I do hope to see him make it in someday.
Tiant was a huge star for the Red Sox in the 1970's. He got his start for the Cleveland Indians in the mid 1960's and pitched pretty well for a few years. In 1968, he won 21 games and lead the league with a 1.60 ERA and nine shutouts. However, he lost 20 games the next year and was traded to the Twins where he pitched well but was injured.
In 1971, he emerged in Boston. 1971 was a transition year as Tiant was morphing from a power pitcher into a finesse pitcher. 1972 through 1976 was Tiant's peak as a pitcher. He won 20 games three times during this pitcher and lead the league in ERA once and WHIP once. Tiant continued to pitch well through 1979 and then held on for three more years.
In his career, Tiant went 229-172, for a .571 winning percentage and a 3.30 ERA. He had 2,416 strikeouts and a 1.199 WHIP. He was also worth 60.1 WAR for his career. His career numbers stack up well in comparison to Hall of Famers like Catfish Hunter, Jim Bunning, and Don Drysdale.
In fact, here are the numbers of Hunter, Bunning, and Drysdale
HUNTER: 224-166, 3.26 ERA, 2,012 strikeouts, 1.134 WHIP, 32.5 WAR
BUNNING: 224-184, 3.27 ERA, 2,855 strikeouts, 1.179 WHIP, 60.1 WAR
DRYSDALE: 209-166, 2.95 ERA, 2,486 strikeouts, 1.148 WHIP, 65.7 WAR
So what's the problem? Well, it's this:
TIANT: 19 seasons
HUNTER: 15 seasons
BUNNING: 17 seasons
DRYSDALE: 14 seasons
Tiant's numbers are similar to those other three Hall of Famers, but he played longer than all of them, and significantly longer than Hunter and Drysdale.
I would really like to see Luis Tiant in the Hall of Fame and he does have comparable numbers to some pitchers already in the Hall, but he also pitched longer than those pitchers. Tiant is a borderline case. I lean towards him being in, but I can definitely see the argument for exclusion.