For the first time since 1955, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has elected four members to the Hall of Fame. They are Randy Johnson (The Big Unit), Pedro Martinez (Pedro),John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. All four of these players have no link to any use of baseball’s banned substances. Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz easily earned induction on their first tries and Biggio made it on his third attempt.
Many baseball people consider Johnson as the greatest lefty pitcher of all-time. The only question about his voting was whether he would exceed Tom Seaver’s record of 98.8 percent of the vote. Johnson came close receiving 97.3 of the vote. Martinez also did well receiving 91.1 percent. A few writers said they did not vote for either pitcher only because they are limited to voting for at most 10 players and knew these two were sure-fire winners. Martinez also lost a few votes because he did not reach the 300-win milestone. These few writers probably accounted for Johnson not breaking Seaver’s voting record. An interesting note about these two great pitchers is they never started against each other in a game.
Until the age of 28 Johnson’s career numbers showed an ERA of 3.95 with a record of 49-48, far from any HOF consideration. His fastball was clocked at 100 mph but like Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax in their early days he did not know where the ball was going. In 1992, Johnson sought advice from Nolan Ryan. The advice he received helped him turn his career around. Johnson’s final career totals included winning five Cy Young Awards with 303 victories and 4,875 strikeouts. He was selected on 534 of 549 ballots. The 97.3 percentage for the left-hander was the eighth-highest in the history of voting.
As great as Johnson was, Pedro’s peak performance may have been the best ever for any pitcher since Sandy Koufax. From 1997 to 2003, Pedro went 118-36 with a 2.20 ERA. While Johnson relied on his blazing fastball and slider, Pedro had three pitches: a blazing fastball, a great curveball, and a changeup. For those seven years batters hit .198 against him. For his career Pedro was 219-100, struck out 3,154, led the major leagues in ERA five times, and won three Cy Young Awards. In 2004, he helped the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years. Martinez joined Juan Marichal as the second player from the Dominican Republic elected to the HOF. He was selected on 500 of the 549 ballots.
After falling two votes short last year, Biggio got in with a comfortable 82.7 percent. If you dissect the numbers, he’s probably a borderline Hall of Famer. His peak performance was from 1995 to 1999 when he was one of the best players in the game. Lasting 20 years enabled him to be the 27th player to reach the 3000-hit milestone. That along with his popularity as a player probably pushed him over the top. Biggio appeared on 454 of the 540 ballots. In his three years on the ballot he rose steadily from 68.2 percent in his first appearance and 74.8 percent last year. He had 3,060 hits in 20 big league seasons, all with the Houston Astros. Biggio hit more doubles (668) than any other right-handed batter in history and is the modern leader in hit-by-pitches (287).
John Smoltz was picked on 455 ballots (82.9 percent) and will join former Atlanta teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who were inducted with the class of 2014. In 1996, he won the Cy Young Award. His career record was 213-155 with 154 saves. He is the only pitcher with 200 wins and 150 saves. For his 21 year career he had a 3.33 ERA. Even though I consider him a Hall of Famer I did not expect him to make it on the first ballot.
The HOF classes of 2014 and 2015 show starting pitchers are back in vogue. From 2000-2013 there have been 21 players inducted. Of those 21, only one was a true starting pitcher (Bert Blyleven)