Bert Blyleven and Rafael Palmeiro have similar cases for the Hall of Fame. Both played 20-plus seasons, finished with Hall of Fame-like career totals in major statistical categories, but neither won a Cy Young or MVP.
You could make a case both had a season or two when they were deserving of a Cy or MVP — see Blyleven’s ‘73 and Palmeiro’s ‘99 — but that’s not the point.
Those who are among the top vote-getters for these awards season after season are likely to be selected into the Hall of Fame. Winning one award one time isn’t going to cut it.
But then there are those who never won a major award but have career totals that stack up with those already enshrined in the Hall, like Blyleven and Palmeiro.
In Hall of Fame voting, I value dominance over longevity. But how can you measure dominance? Well, nothing’s perfect, but I am a fan of Baseball-Reference’s Black Ink test, which favors statistical league leaders. It only rewards players who led the league.
Four Points for home runs, runs batted in or batting average
Three Points for runs scored, hits or slugging percentage
Two Points for doubles, walks or stolen bases
One Point for games, at bats or triples
Four Points for wins, earned run average or strikeouts
Three Points for innings pitched, win-loss percentage or saves
Two Points for complete games, lowest walks per 9 innings or lowest hits per 9 innings
One Point for appearances, starts or shutouts
Quite simply, Blyleven and Palmeiro are not close to Hall of Famers through this test.
The average Hall of Fame pitcher scores approximately a 40. Blyleven has a 16.
The average Hall of Fame hitter scores approximately a 27. Palmeiro has an 8.
Another Hall of Fame test:
I would be remiss if I did not mention the Gray Ink test, which rewards players for ranking in the top 10 rather than only the league leaders.
This test makes Blyleven and Palmeiro look like shoo-ins.
The average Hall of Fame pitcher scores approximately 185. Blyleven has a 237.
The average Hall of Fame hitter scores approximately a 144. Palmeiro has an 183.
So which test do you like? I don’t agree 100 percent with either test, as both are borderline Hall of Famers (that’s why we like to talk about them so much).
But if I had to pick one, I think the Black Ink test does a wonderful job of measuring dominance because the league leaders are usually those who are remembered, whether it be through the major end-of-the-year awards or single-season records. Those who are remembered made an impact on the game.
Please note I’m not saying the Gray Ink test is a good measure of longevity. I’m saying it measures dominance, but not as well as the Black Ink test does.
Blyleven fell just 0.8 percent short of the Hall last year and I believe he has picked up enough steam to make it this year. But if I had a vote, I wouldn’t pick him.
This year was Palmeiro’s first appearance on the ballot. Unfortunately for him, his whole story isn’t told on his Baseball-Reference page. He tested positive for steroids in 2005 after telling a House committee he never used them. To this day, he insists he never used steroids.
Even though Palmeiro surpassed both major hitting milestones of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, I think his lack of dominance and integrity will keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
This year’s Hall of Fame selections will be announced tomorrow.