As promised, we continue today with our rundown of the Hall of Fame candidates. Two veterans committees—the Early Era Baseball Committee and the Golden Days Committee—are supposed to meet on Sunday to vote on 20 candidates for the Hall. The countdown to Sunday continues here, and stay tuned for more on the rest of the candidates later in the week:
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No. 13: Billy Pierce
Pitched from 1945 (when he was 18!) until 1964. … Probably the best American League pitcher of the 1950s … Won 20 games twice and led league with a 1.97 ERA in 1955 … Seven-time All-Star, but even more impressively, he started three All-Star Games.
Key numbers: 211-169, 3.27 ERA, 119 ERA+, 1,999 strikeouts, 38 shutouts, 53.4 bWAR.
Hall of Fame history: Appeared on just five BBWAA ballots and never got even two percent of the vote. Did not appear on a veteran’s ballot until 2013, when he got fewer than three votes.
By all accounts, Billy Pierce was a spectacularly nice man, which I assume is why he’s on this ballot even though, let’s be honest, he’s been roundly rejected as a Hall of Fame candidate for 50 years.
I’m not saying that rejection is fair … just that it’s undeniable. I actually believe Pierce does have a Hall of Fame case because I do believe he was the best pitcher in the American League in the 1950s. There are eight Hall of Fame pitchers who appeared in AL games in the decade, but if you look at them, you realize that none really fits the bill as best pitcher of the decade:
Pierce pitched 800 more innings than Whitey Ford, who I think was the second best pitcher of the decade. I think Pierce was more dominant than either Early Wynn or Bob Lemon, who are both in the Hall of Fame. And the other Hall of Famers from the decade don’t really compare well — Jim Bunning was really more of a 1960s pitcher, Hoyt Wilhelm was a reliever and definitely more of a 1960s pitcher, Bob Feller belongs to the 1930s and ’40s, Satchel Paige was timeless but certainly not a good comp, and Hal Newhouser was at his best around World War II.
Anyway, on this ballot, I just think every vote for Pierce will hurt more compelling candidates.