Luis Tiant Should be in the Hall of Fame: In the Shadows of Greatness

Why El Tiante Should be in the Hall…

Luis Tiant Baseball Card

The Hall of Fame voting process is probably one of the more mysterious processes in modern sports culture, and also one of the most important. The results of this tradition-laden event spark more house-dividing caliber sports debate than anything else in the game, and it is far from flawless.

Over the years, many worthy candidates have fallen through the cracks of time, deserving enshrinement, but ultimately getting the occasional mention on a “this day in baseball history” segment on a pregame show somewhere. One of those players was the son of a Cuban ballplayer, who took his fathers unique style of pitching to the Major Leagues, and along the way, put up a career worthy of more consideration than has been given.

Luis Tiant was born in 1940, son of a professional Baseball player in Cuba. The Elder Tiant was a master of off-speed pitches, and was known for his off-kilter delivery, two skills that the younger would adopt at an early age. He started playing professionally in 1959, a member of the Mexico City Tigers club, until he eventually worked his way into the Indians organization. In 1964, he made his debut at the age of 23, throwing 127 innings, and compiling an ERA of 2.83. He would go on to pitch for four more seasons in Cleveland, pitching 211 games, and an ERA of 2.84. He earned his first ERA title in 1968, sporting a 1.60 mark over 258 innings.

He is probably most famously known for his time with the Red Sox, an era that began in 1972, and ended in 1978. Over that time, he won 122 Luis Tiant Baseball Card games, with an ERA of 3.36. He was an invaluable member of the 1975 Red Sox team that made it to the World Series, losing in an epic 7 games to the Cincinnati Reds, a series in which Tiant pitched two complete games, throwing 25 solid innings of work against the Big Red Machine, arguably one of the most potent lineups ever assembled.

He would finish his career with some less successful stints with the Yankees, Pirates, and final the California Angels, but when the dust settled, Tiant would own a collection of statistics that seemed ticket for Cooperstown, and yet, in his standard 15 year turn on the IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, he failed to secure more than 30% of the vote, less than half of what induction requires.

By all accounts, it simply doesn’t make sense. The numbers tell a story of an easy induction:

3,486.1 Innings Pitched (more than John Smoltz or Don Drysdale )
2,416 Strikeouts (More than Juan Marichal or Jim Palmer )
66 Wins Above Replacement (More than Roy Halladay , or Bob Feller )
114 ERA+* (Better than Jack Morris or Nolan Ryan )
* = ERA+ takes a player’s ERA and normalizes it across the entire league. It accounts for external factors like ballparks and opponents. It then adjusts, so a score of 100 is league average, and 150 is 50 percent better than the league average.

So it begs the question…. Why the hell didn’t he get in?

First, one has to look at who ELSE was on the ballot. One of the “quirks” (that’s the nicest way I can put it) about the voting system, is that a writer can only select ten candidates per year. So let’s see who were some of the inductees on the years that Tiant was on the ballot, and how much of the vote he got…

1st year, 1988: Willie Stargell ( Tiant got 30.9%)
2nd year, 1989: Johnny Bench , Carl Yastrzemski ( Tiant fell to 10.5%)
3rd year, 1990: Jim Palmer , Joe Morgan ( Tiant at 9.5%)
4th year, 1991: Rod Carew , Gaylord Perry , Fergie Jenkins ( Tiant dropped to 7.2%)
…..
15th year, 2002: Ozzie Smith ( Tiant dropped off at 18%)

It’s arguable that Tiant was a victim of circumstance, with so many legendary players coming up on the ballot, that the writers simply ran out of room for him. That span of time saw some pretty decisive entries, such as Phil Niekro , Don Sutton , Tony Perez, Mike Schmidt , even years like in 1996 where no player garnered enough votes to get in.

Second, and maybe most interestingly, he was the victim of outdated thinking about the game, from a statistical output. Tiant played on some very good teams, but also some very bad teams, thus adversely effecting his overall win total. While 229 is not a slim number, it puts him in marginal company, behind Jim Palmer (268), Robin Roberts (286), and Fergie Jenkins (284), even though he was comparably as good, or even better than those pitchers. The Win is widely regarded as an outdated statistic in modern times, and we have learned other, more accurate ways to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness. A bit too late for Luis , though.

The fact is, that Luis Tiant is worthy of a Hall of Fame induction. He was not just one of the most effective pitchers of his era, but most importantly, given what the IBWAA has deemed acceptable for nomination into the sacred halls of Cooperstown, New York, (I’m looking at you, Jack Morris ), one could argue that Luis got much less respect than he deserved.

Comments?

Author: Adam MacKinnon ( @AdamCMacK )

If You Like This Post, Please Share Below:

Leave a Reply

Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac8h
LLWS + MLB #WorldSeries [baseball-almanac.com/legendary/litt…]: Ever wonder who played in both? During 2004 WS they mentioned tw… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac15h
RIP: Tex Clevenger [baseball-almanac.com/players/player…]. How did Truman Eugene Clevenger (1932-2019) become Tex? It's on… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac24 Aug
Final resting place for Sammy Byrd, aka Babe Ruth's Caddy, confirmed & added. DYK this former #MLB player with… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac24 Aug
Harry Hooper (baseball-almanac.com/players/player…). Born OTD1887. First #MLB player to lead off BOTH games of a doubleheader wi… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac24 Aug
In 2019, each of these fathers saw their son make it to #MLB. How many can you identify? No helping please, check a… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac23 Aug
JACK REED [baseball-almanac.com/players/player…]: aka Mantle's Legs or Mantle's Caddy, hit one HR, in 22nd inning, during longes… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac23 Aug
BOOK SHELF: Hugh Casey examined, from birth in #Atlanta, to his suicide in that same city, 37-years later. The book… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac22 Aug
Carl Yastrzemski [baseball-almanac.com/players/player…]. Born OTD1939. When Yaz hung up his cleats in '83 -- 3,308 GP, more than… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac22 Aug
When Bob Lemon died in 2000, I added this research [baseball-almanac.com/hof/hofgrv.sht…]. Not for everyone, I realize, but it d… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac21 Aug
Happy Birthday Felix Millan [baseball-almanac.com/players/player…]: born OTD1943, made Joe Torre's record 4 GIDP game possible (… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac21 Aug
UPDATED: Three Home Runs in a Game research now includes BOLD (Hall of Famers) and ITALICS (Rookies) on list (… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac20 Aug
Happy Birthday Todd Helton [baseball-almanac.com/players/player…]: Born OTD1973. Finished with .316 BAVG, 2,500+ hits, 550+ 2Bs,… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac20 Aug
Thanks for sharing that with your followers Jamie! The record book is here [baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/rb_st…]. twitter.com/OCoffeeMyCoffe…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac20 Aug
BASEBALL ALMANAC MAIL BOX: "Is there anyway for users to expand on that database, such as who are the 500 oldest li… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac19 Aug
UPDATED: Pete Alonso hit HR #40, setting new single season HR record for NL rookies [baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/rb_hr…]. Rook… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac19 Aug
NOTHING BUT STRIKES: @KevinGausman joined Immaculate Innings [baseball-almanac.com/feats/feats17.…] club; throwing exactly 3 pit… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac18 Aug
Baseball Almanac Instagram [instagram.com/baseballalmana…] Photo of the Day - Sunday. Seeing this earlier today, with the… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac18 Aug
Thanks for sharing that with you followers, sorry I didn't RT earlier, I was traveling for the past week... twitter.com/BurrHughes/sta…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac10 Aug
Red Barrett, OTD1944 [baseball-almanac.com/boxscore/08101…], needed only 58 pitches, and one-hour fifteen minutes, to record a c… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Desktop Version