Visual Baseball:  Blyleven vs. (dare I say) Koufax?

I’m fascinated by Hall of Fame debates. And I admit that using Rankometer is only one tool to assess a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Then again, I think a good way to decide if someone was a Hall of Famer is to look at how he compared to the elite at his position, in his era, throughout his career. This seems to be the most simple yet powerful way to make the argument, and Rankometer does it visually.

So here’s something that will likely stir the pot: Who had the better career, Bert Blyleven or Sandy Koufax? Seems like an outrageous question, but let’s look at their careers using Rankometer, and organize the seasons from best to worst.





Which career looks more impressive? There’s an awful lot of color in Blyleven’s career. And, keep in mind that any color on Rankometer means you still had a very good season. It means you were one of the top 30 pitchers in baseball, an “ace” on many teams. For context, Justin Verlander and Matt Cain barely showed up on Rankometer for 2010 and Tim Lincecum just missed. All three of these guys are considered “elite.”

Could you make the admittedly simplistic argument that greatness for a career equals the amount of color in your career Rankometer?

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  1. Ron Kaplan said...

    At the risk of being too protective of my landsman Koufax, we all know that his dominant seasons weer relatively few due to injury; his first two—when he spent most of his time on the bullpen bench—shouldn’t even count.

    Blyleven, on the other hand, was a horse from the get-go. But he NEVER dominated like Koufax. Now I am as far from a Sabermetrician as you can get, so forgive a naive question: Are WAR relative to individual seasons? Seems to me that there were more better pitchers during Koufax’s career (Spahn, Gibson, Marichal, et al), than Blyleven.

  2. Kevin Dame said...


    Pitching was more dominating in the 60’s because of mound height and other factors.  That’s why Rankometer makes sense in that it looks at how a player performed relative to his peers in his era.  Everyone says Blyleven never dominated the way Koufax did, but when their best seasons are compared (relative to their peers) they’re not that different.  Rankometer reveals this visually.  It can also be shown numerically as Cyril states above.

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