Rick Reuschel has a very compelling case for the Baseball Hall of Fame

1990: Pitcher Rick Reuschel of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch during a game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule /Allsport
1990: Pitcher Rick Reuschel of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch during a game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule /Allsport /

As you look back at some of the players that fell off the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame or some of them that got in, sometimes, you just have to shake your head at some of the people that made it in and the ones who didn’t. One of them is Rick Reuschel.

That is even more of the case if you’re someone that believes that players that are suspected of taking PEDs (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, etc.) or proven PED users (Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodríguez, Manny Ramírez, etc.) should be in the Hall of Fame.

But regardless of the players that fall into that category, there are some that were vastly overlooked and now that we have more statistics to look into the playing career of players from yesteryear, there are some glaring omissions.

Case in point: Rick Reuschel.

Former Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants pitcher Rick Reuschel has a very good case for the Hall of Fame

In his time, Rick Reuschel was considered to be a very good pitcher … but not one that was worthy of the Hall of Fame. He played in the majors from 1972 through 1991, spending 12 seasons with the Cubs and five with the Giants. He also played with the Pirates and Yankees.

Reuschel was on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 1997 with two votes, or 0.4 percent of the vote. The player with the most WAR on that ballot got into the Hall of Fame on that ballot (Phil Niekro). The second-highest player was Ron Santo, who got into the Hall via the Veterans Committee after his death as part of the Class of 2012.

Number three … was Rick Reuschel. Future Hall of Famers Don Sutton, Joe Torre, Tony Pérez, Minnie Miñoso, Jim Kaat, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter were all on the ballot and were, by WAR, not as good as Reuschel but eventually (by BBWAA vote or Veterans/Era Committee) got in.

Reuschel was a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner. He came in 3rd in NL Cy Young Award voting in 1977 and 1987 and had an 8th place finish with the Giants in 1989, when they went to the World Series.

His problem was that, at the time, he played on some really bad teams and writers, at the time, looked at winners and losses more than other stats (some of which, admittedly, didn’t exist then).

For example, in his first full season, Reuschel had an ERA of 3.00 (ERA+ of 131) with a FIP of 2.82 … but he had a record of 14-15 in 36 starts. He had a pitching WAR of 5.8.

1977 was his best season when he went 20-10 with a 2.79 ERA in 39 games (37 starts). He pitched 252 innings with a 158 ERA+, a 3.03 FIP, and a league-low 0.5 HR/9.

In total, he had 10 seasons with an ERA+ of 115 or better, 11 seasons with at least 3.0 rWAR (and another season at 2.9), nine seasons where he was in the top 10 in pitcher WAR in his league a career 3.22 FIP, and a career 69.5 rWAR.

For comparison, Reuschel is 34th among all starters in rWAR. A few pitchers directly above him include active pitchers Justin Verlander (32nd) and Clayton Kershaw (31st), both of whom will certainly be Hall of Famers. Reuschel is ahead of fairly recent Hall of Famers John Smoltz (35th), Jim Palmer (38th), Don Drysdale (41st), Don Sutton (42nd), Roy Halladay (47th), and future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer (40th).

Overall, of all players that have been on a Hall of Fame ballot, not tied to PEDs or another “character” clause issue (Curt Schilling and Pete Rose), and made their MLB debut after 1901 (the “Modern Era,”) Reuschel has the third-highest WAR of a non-Hall of Famer.

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Reuschel, at bare minimum, should get further examination on an Era Committee ballot, as should a number of overlooked players. We’ll continue to examine more of those players in the coming days and weeks.