I heartily agree with Mr. Bert Blyleven's own case as expressed here:
Wins are a tough statistic to consider in baseball. But for a few timely runs, and a little bit better run support, Blyleven would easily have over 320 wins and would have been in the Hall of Fame years ago. This is not a case where he, as a pitcher, didn't start enough games. It's more a case of having to have played on some teams that had anemic hitting. Just the fact that he pitched 242 complete games is enough by me. That's an amazing feat, one that you won't see in the future. Mr. Blyleven deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Period. End of story.
When talk of my Hall of Fame candidacy comes up, usually people like to point at my career win total of 287 as a reason I shouldn’t be elected to Cooperstown. The so-called magic number of wins for automatic induction is said to be 300, and obviously I come up short in that department.
But in my opinion, wins are one of the hardest things to come by, and a pitcher can only do so much to control whether he wins a game. You can control your walks, you can control your strikeouts and your innings pitched. You can control whether you go nine innings by the way you approach a game. But one thing you often can’t control is wins and losses. It’s very difficult.
When I first came up in 1970 at age 19, I won my first game 2-1. My second game I lost 2-1. So after two starts, I had allowed three runs in 14 innings (1.93 ERA), but was just 1-1. That just shows you how hard it is, and it made me work harder. Maybe that’s why I was able to pitch 22 seasons in the majors, because I was so stubborn.
If you allow one run, but your team doesn’t score any runs, then you can’t earn the win. If your bullpen gives up a lead after you leave the game, then you can’t earn a win. Wins are a product of your team as a whole, and while the starting pitcher plays a significant role in who wins the game, he is not the only factor. The starter can only control so much.
Case in point: I lost 99 quality starts (at least six innings pitched while allowing no more than three runs) in my career, more than all but four pitchers since 1954. And I had 79 other quality starts in which I had no-decisions. That’s 178 quality starts in which I did not earn a win, yet people knock me for coming up 13 wins shy of 300.
Clearly, wins is a flawed stat, and I think observers of baseball are beginning to realize that. After all, this year’s Cy Young winners were Zack Greinke (16 wins) and Tim Lincecum (15). Both are great pitchers and deserving of the award, but neither led their league in wins.
One thing a pitcher can control is how far he lasts in each start. The better you pitch, the longer you last. This saves wear and tear on your bullpen, which in turn helps the starters who follow you in the rotation. Every time you pitch a complete game, your team benefits. That’s why I think complete games and shutouts are better stats to look at than wins.
I made 685 starts in my 22 seasons, and threw 242 complete games, so I went the distance in 35.3 percent of my starts. Compare that to Hall of Fame pitchers from my era and I stack up well. Phil Niekro completed 34 percent of his starts, Nolan Ryan 29 percent, Tom Seaver 35.7 percent and Steve Carlton 35.8 percent. Ferguson Jenkins (45 percent) and Gaylord Perry (44 percent) were the most impressive from my era in that department.