Jon Heyman Hits Roundtripper in Circular Logic, Doesn't Circle Bert

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Notoriously outspoken critic of advanced statistics Jon Heyman has a Hall of Fame ballot and he's not afraid to wave it in your face in a taunting motion, all the while dancing around in endless circular reasoning that is jeopardizing the candidacy of one of history's greatest pitchers. Like a dog chasing its own tail, Heyman's arguments for keeping Bert Blyleven out of Cooperstown are not based on sound analysis but rather on an endless loop of doublespeak and his own profession's inability to recognize brilliance.

More on the circular logic claims in a bit. In his annual ballot explanation column, Heyman explains that he won't vote for Bert Blyleven because Bert was a "great compiler" and not a "great player." First, let's read along while Heyman claims to hate statistics but, in the same breath, professes his love for numbers. Which is weird, because what is a statistic except a series of numbers interpreted in a clever way to prove something new and different?

I look at numbers, too, and while my numbers may be slightly more simplistic than WHIP, WAR or VORP, I think they tell a story of a pitcher who was extremely good, consistent and durable but not quite Cooperstown-worthy.

Slightly more simplistic? That's an understatement. Heyman's favorite number to examine when evaluating a pitcher is 'wins'. That's a simple counting stat. A kindergartner could comprehend the concept of counting. Heck, a dead retarded squirrel could understand the numbers Heyman looks at. But! Let us be inclusive, for one mustn't need a B.S. in Mathematics to understand WHIP or ERA+ or WAR, you just need a link to Alex Remington's didactic and entertaining work.

Besides, if Heyman is going to look at 'wins' as his triumphant number, wouldn't it stand to reason that Blyleven and his 287 wins deserves the honor more than Jack Morris (who Heyman did cast a vote for) and his 254 wins?

Heyman then repeats the same mantra that Blyleven naysayers have been spouting for years:

Only four times in 22 seasons did he receive Cy Young votes (he was third twice, fourth and seventh once), only twice did he make the All-Star team and only twice did he win more than 17 games.

Jon Heyman won't vote for Blyleven because he didn't get enough Cy Young votes in his career. The Cy Young Award is voted on by members of the BBWAA. Jon Heyman is voting for the Hall of Fame, which requires him to be a member of the BBWAA for a certain number of years. Heyman himself represents this organization of baseball writers that does the voting in both situations. To put Heyman's argument into simpler terms:

I, Jon Heyman, member of the BBWAA, won't vote for Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame because my fellow BBWAA members in the 1970s and 1980s didn't vote often enough for Bert Blyleven in the Cy Young Award races.

Did Blyleven ever deserve to win the Cy Young Award in any year of his career? Probably not, but for a guy to finish in the top ten in ERA a whopping ten times, top ten in strikeouts 14 times, and top ten in shutouts ten times, you'd think he should gotten a few more votes in a few more years. Is it his fault that wins were over-valued during that era by the BBWAA voters? No. Is it his fault that he only won 20 games once? Partly, but not entirely.

It's circular reasoning and it's wrong. Ask Heyman why writers like him don't pay enough respect to Blyleven's career and he'll tell you, "Well, writers like me didn't pay enough respect to Blyleven's career." The BBWAA is made up of very talented writers who sometimes inadvertently regress to personal biases when they rate players (see: Morris, Jack). We should be using new, advanced statistics to eliminate or maybe just soften these biases; we should be evaluating both active and historic players with a fair eye.

Heyman continues:

My contention regarding Blyleven is that almost no one viewed him as a Hall of Famer during his playing career, and that is borne out by the 17 percent of the vote he received in his first year of eligibility in 1998, followed by 14 percent the next year.

Did you go back and interview the 3,701 batters that Blyleven struck out in his 22 year career, Jon, and ask them if they ever thought Bert was a Hall of Famer as they flailed at a wicked curveball? And do writers ever make mistakes in their HOF voting that they later correct?

Or do we ever take a step back and realize that perhaps our initial thoughts about a situation were incorrect and the time has come to reevaluate using new information? It's like Heyman is convinced that Blyleven has weapons of mass destruction in his bedroom closet and refuses to issue an apology for breaking into his house and rifling through his linens only to find an unsold crate of "Circle Me Bert" t-shirts.

Smarter people have spelled out Blyleven's candidacy in more elegant ways than I, and smarter people have given Heyman the business over his persistent campaign of anti-Bert sentiments. But let us not ignore the fallacies in Heyman's arguments that make it seem like his campaign to keep Blyleven out of Cooperstown is more like a personal vendetta against smart folks and not an honest evaluation of one of baseball's greatest pitchers.

And yes, Mr. Heyman, I may be just a youngster but I remember Blyleven's excellent comeback season in 1989 with California, but I still don't think one needs to witness greatness in person to realize the existence of a historic talent.


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29 Comments

great post, I grew up in the 80's and remember Blyleven, the guy should be in the HOF, but not before Jim Kaat.

You jerk, Jim Kaat didn't get enough wins or garner enough Cy Young votes.

Just kidding, that guy is a class act and should make the announcers wing at the HOF.

Nice work, Iracane. We need less willful ignorance in . . . HEY A DOG!

Based on a discussion I just had, the following pitchers who played after 1950 never won a Cy Young Award and still made the HOF:

Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning, Hoyt Wilhelm, Juan Marichal, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Goose Gossage, and Nolan freakin Ryan.

I'll reluctantly give Heyman the "1998 argument" as a mark against Bert because it was a pretty weak Hall Class overall. 1999 though?

Oh...that was just Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount all getting the nod in their first year with Carlton Fisk (also in his first year) barely on the outside looking in. That's some much stiffer competition, no?

Nice work, Rob. Heyman is a nitwit.

Dan Shaughnessy makes almost the same argument about Edgar Martinez. He's basically saying, "yeah, his numbers are historically good, but because I don't remember particularly fearing him back when he was playing, he's not worthy." http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/dan_shaughnessy/01/04/edgar.martinez/index.html?eref=sihp

Jim Rice, whose offensive numbers are excellent but demonstrably not as good as Martinez's in most categories, deserves it because he was "feared."

There's a legitimate argument for not voting for a DH (sorry ALers, baseball players play offense and defense), though I admit it's not fair to penalize Martinez for his team's decision to use him in the most optimal way for them given their (silly) league's rule. But even though Edgar's not a slam dunk, to essentially acknowledge that because of your own failure to recognize greatness at the time, you can't vote for him, is completely boneheaded (and naturally he gets in some digs at the "stat geeks").

Can the BBWA just vote for a rule that if you don't play for a handful of teams with clout and/or history, you can just go fuck yourself for HOF voting? To make it a first-ballot winner, they can also vote to give swirlies to any stat nerd in any Cooperstown-area bathroom (including the James Fenimore Cooper boyhood home).

Geez, I should have read Heyman's article before I commented. It's even stupider than I thought (and also includes a lame "Edgar Martinez wasn't dominant" argument). I love how he justifies his vote for Jack Morris while acknowledging that overall, Blyleven's stats were better. By stats, I'm assuming he means the metrics that we use to measure how good a player was at doing the things he does in an objective manner as possible.

I don't want to take away anything from Jack Morris, who was a very good pitcher, but is there any chance he'd be getting any kind of Hall of Fame momentum if it weren't for his Game 7 performance?

I think we can all safely agree that the dog in the picture is more intelligent and more capable of rational thought than Jon Heyman, don't you?

His father was one of the first Indians I remember watching, but I still hate that the Tribe signed this putz:

http://www.cleveland.com/ohio-sports-blog/index.ssf/2010/01/cleveland_indians_sign_interna.html

Look on the bright side, Chief, at least it's not Chris Duncan.

@Chief, Sandy Duncan > Shelley Duncan.

I'll always remember him as the greatest Yankee ever to be named Shelley.

Duncan MacLoed > Dunkin Donuts > Shelley Duncan > Shelly Long

> Howey Long

Long Duk Dong > Howie Long

For some odd reason, he was always listed as "_Duncan" on the scoreboards whenever the Scranton Yankees visited Rochester.

NOW BATTING: SHELLEY UNDERSCORE DUNCAN

Howie Long > Long Island > "Island in The Sun"

Ed,
Do you go to a lot of Red Wings games?

BCTF,
I don't go to a lot of Red Wings games, but I do make it a point to get to at least a few every year.

You should go to more Habs games Ed, they're closer and 100% less shitty.

I would love to go to minor league games but we don't have anything other than independant ball around us.

Thanks, Drew, but I think I'll stick with the Sabres. Besides, how the hell does anyone get tickets into the Bell Centre?

Incidentally: I just picked up "In The Absence of Truth" recently. Good stuff.

Oh yeah, THOSE Red Wings. The only bush league baseball I've seen is KBL. Unfortunately my watch did not strike Limatime that day.

How dare you soil my wall-to-wall carpeting with your filthy hockey speak!

I love minor league baseball. I've been to about five or six minor league stadiums (mostly triple-A with one single-A short season team mixed in) and they've all been fun. Though nothing quite beats my father and I sitting right in front of two grumpy old ladies who cursed under their breath and yelled at the umpires the whole time one night at the single-A short season ballpark. "HEY, BLUE! CLEAN THE PLATE, YA JERK!"

What the hell is hockey?

I live down the street from the Cardinals Double-A club's stadium. It's great seeing the swings and pitches from prospects you read about.

dmac, apparently it's a variant of curling.

EXTREME CURLING!

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