Doc Halladay's Birthday and Rick Reuschel

Roy Halladay turns 37 today, May 14th.  It's interesting to note this because May 14th appears to be the day of the year with the most Hall of Famers' birthdays.  By my count, there are five people in the Hall of Fame who share a birthday with Doc Halladay; Tony Perez, Earle Combs and Ed Walsh, as players, as well as Negro League founders/executives JL Wilkinson and Alex Pompez.  Who knows, maybe some day Halladay's name is added to that (already illustrious) list?  So happy birthday to the good Doctor - we hope that you are enjoying your retirement.

But that's not entirely the point of this post.  Looking at Roy Halladay's Baseball Reference list caused me to reflect on the career of Rick Reuschel... let me explain.  

As many of you know, Baseball Reference has a "Fan EloRater" which allows fans to compare the statistics of two randomized players from different teams/eras/decades side by side while casting a fan vote for the player that you feel is better.  It's a community based system that allows each person to determine his or her individual weighting for things like defense versus offense, peak versus career and regular season versus playoffs.  After casting your first vote, two more players are randomly picked and placed in front of you to vote on... you can literally do this for hours (not that I would do something like that).  The thousands of votes received are compiled into some sort of database and thus you end up with a constantly changing Fan Rating system.  Number one on the list, as of this post is Walter Johnson.

As of this post, Roy Halladay's EloRater score is 59 among pitchers which means he ranks 59th all-time as voted upon by the fans that have voted via the EloRating system.  And who do you think claims the 58th spot?

None other than Rick Reuschel. 

Now, I'm not writing this post in support of a "Rick Reuschel belongs in the Hall of Fame" campaign but there are some things that jump out at you about the Illinois farm boy they called Big Daddy that I think deserves to be noted.

First, he was somewhat of a compiler in that he pitched into his 40's.  At first glance, he seemingly hung on to tack on wins.  He was a crafty righty who didn't strike a lot of guys out.  He was successful because he didn't give free passes and he didn't give up the long ball.  He was a very good fielder and an above average hitter.  All of those things sort of contributed to his standing among other pitchers in terms of WAR - he ranks 34th in Career WAR among pitchers.

Second, he played for some really bad teams (and pitched in some hitter friendly environments)... his prime years were spent with the 70's Cubs who couldn't sniff the postseason if it smelled of roses and bit them in the nose.  Despite that fact, Reuschel posted an ERA below 3.50 (ERA+ of 116) from 1972 to 1981 (his age 23 to 32 seasons).  He was a three-time all-star and a two-time Gold Glove winner over the course of *19 seasons.  Had he played for better teams, his win totals are probably closer to 250, if not more.

* Saying that he played 19 seasons is sort of misleading because...

Third, he missed the equivalent of two and a half full seasons due to a shoulder injury which many feared would inevitably end his career.  He missed the entire 1982 season and pitched sparingly (and ineffectively) in 1983 and 1984.  He didn't really get his career back on track until 1985 at the ripe age of 36.  That year, with the Pirates, he went 14-8 while tossing 194 innings with an ERA of 2.27 (winning the Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year Award).  Reuschel would average 224 innings (3.27 ERA) over the next four seasons before tailing off his final two years (age 41 and 42 seasons where he only pitched in 19 games total).

He earned two Hall of Fame votes in his first and only year on the ballot in 1997.

Other notable players on the ballot for the first time that year - Dave Parker, Dwight Evans and Bobby Bonds.  Other Hall of Famers that were on the ballot in 1997 (in order of votes received)- Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Tony Perez, Ron Santo, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter and Joe Torre yet only Phil Niekro earned enough votes to be selected to enter the Hall of Fame that year.  Joe Torre actually fell off the balllot that year in his 15th and final year as an eligible ballot entry (he was selected by the Veteran's Committee).  Of all the players on the ballot, Rick Reuschel's 70 career WAR ranked third behind only Niekro and Ron Santo.  His JAWS score (reflects a players peak years) was good enough for third among the names on the ballot.  His highest WAR 7 (seven best WAR seasons totaled) ranked fifth.  

Let me be clear, Reuschel is not a Hall of Famer but pulling all of this together, I'd say that Reuschel deserved to hang on the Hall of Fame ballot longer than he did.  As mentioned, in his first and only year on the ballot in 1997, he only garnered two votes. 


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