Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
Home     List of Articles



Tommy John

2018 Modern Era Hall of Fame Ballot: Tommy John



The Baseball Hall of Fame recently announced their 2018 Veterans' ballot. One player on the ballot is long-time former major-league starting pitcher and arm surgery pioneer, Tommy John. John most recently appeared on the 2014 Veterans' ballot. This article is an update of an article I wrote at that time.

The first table below presents Tommy John's career as measured by Player won-lost records.

Tommy John
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1963CLE20
6
1.01.20.444-0.1
0.0
1.21.40.467-0.00.1
1964CLE21
25
5.27.60.405-1.0
-0.3
5.66.10.479-0.10.6
1965CHA22
39
12.710.10.5561.8
2.8
11.810.90.5211.02.0
1966CHA23
34
15.012.30.5491.8
3.0
14.313.30.5191.02.2
1967CHA24
31
11.511.70.4950.3
1.3
11.511.00.5100.61.6
1968CHA25
25
10.28.10.5571.5
2.2
11.89.60.5501.62.4
1969CHA26
33
13.013.00.5010.6
1.8
14.113.90.5050.82.1
1970CHA27
38
16.615.70.5131.1
2.5
16.415.00.5231.42.8
1971CHA28
38
13.315.20.466-0.4
0.9
13.014.10.4790.01.2
1972LAN29
29
10.79.40.5331.1
2.0
11.311.40.4980.41.4
1973LAN30
36
13.010.10.5622.0
3.0
13.111.30.5391.52.5
1974LAN31
22
9.66.30.6012.0
2.6
8.98.40.5160.71.3
1976LAN33
31
11.010.90.5010.5
1.3
12.312.20.5010.51.5
1977LAN34
31
16.311.10.5943.2
4.5
13.612.00.5311.42.6
1978LAN35
33
12.511.00.5311.2
2.2
12.112.40.4930.31.3
1979NYA36
37
15.710.70.5962.7
3.9
15.811.40.5812.43.6
1980NYA37
36
16.211.10.5942.7
3.9
14.811.50.5621.82.9
1981NYA38
20
8.07.00.5340.7
1.4
7.86.90.5320.61.4
39
37
11.710.50.5260.8
1.9
12.810.80.5421.22.3
1983CAL40
34
11.912.90.481-0.3
0.9
13.113.30.4970.21.4
1984CAL41
32
9.510.60.472-0.4
0.5
9.810.70.476-0.30.6
42
23
5.26.60.439-0.6
-0.0
4.85.80.454-0.40.2
1986NYA43
13
4.43.30.5710.6
1.0
3.83.40.5280.20.6
1987NYA44
33
11.48.60.5691.6
2.6
10.88.70.5531.32.2
1988NYA45
35
9.58.30.5330.7
1.6
10.210.40.4960.01.0
1989NYA46
10
3.24.30.426-0.5
-0.1
3.64.10.465-0.20.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
761
278.0247.90.52923.6
47.3
278.3259.90.51718.042.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
14
5.14.80.514 0.85.14.80.515 0.8
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
775
283.1252.70.529
48.0
283.5264.70.517 42.9


Tommy John is probably best known for the elbow surgery which bears his name. Personally, I think this is a minor argument in favor of Tommy John's Hall-of-Fame candidacy. But I also think he doesn't necessarily need the help. The fact is that Tommy John was an outstanding starting pitcher for a long time.

In this article, I am going to compare Tommy John to Hall-of-Famer (and sabermetric darling) Bert Blyleven. Bert Blyleven pitched 4,970 innings in his long and storied career with a career earned run average of 3.31 (ERA+ of 118 according to Baseball-Reference), and a traditional won-lost record of 287-250.

Tommy John pitched nearly as many innings in his career, 4,710.1, at a similar rate to Blyleven (ERA of 3.34, ERA+ of 111). Blyleven struck out quite a few more batters than John (3,701 to 2,245), but John was better at the other two "true outcomes", issuing only 1,259 career walks (to 1,322 by Blyleven) and allowing only 302 home runs (vs. 430 home runs allowed by Blyleven).

The next table compares Tommy John and Bert Blyleven in (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) eWins over their careers.

Tommy John Bert Blyleven
Season Games eWins eLosses Win Pct. eWOPA eWORL Games eWins eLosses Win Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1963
61.21.40.467-0.0
0.1
1964
255.66.10.479-0.1
0.6
1965
3911.810.90.5211.0
2.0
1966
3414.313.30.5191.0
2.2
1967
3111.511.00.5100.6
1.6
1968
2511.89.60.5501.6
2.4
1969
3314.113.90.5050.8
2.1
1970
3816.415.00.5231.4
2.8
2710.19.50.5150.61.5
1971
3813.014.10.4790.0
1.2
3818.315.80.5372.03.5
1972
2911.311.40.4980.4
1.4
3918.417.40.5131.32.9
1973
3613.111.30.5391.5
2.5
4019.412.90.6013.55.0
1974
228.98.40.5160.7
1.3
3717.513.10.5722.53.8
1975
 
3516.913.60.5551.83.3
1976
3112.312.20.5010.5
1.5
3617.714.30.5531.93.3
1977
3113.612.00.5311.4
2.6
3014.810.80.5782.23.5
1978
3312.112.40.4930.3
1.3
3515.513.20.5411.83.0
1979
3715.811.40.5812.4
3.6
3814.115.80.472-0.21.0
1980
3614.811.50.5621.8
2.9
3712.213.10.483-0.01.0
1981
207.86.90.5320.6
1.4
209.17.40.5541.11.9
1982
3712.810.80.5421.2
2.3
41.21.20.5080.00.2
1983
3413.113.30.4970.2
1.4
249.48.00.5420.91.7
1984
329.810.70.476-0.3
0.6
3315.010.50.5892.53.6
1985
234.85.80.454-0.4
0.2
3717.513.30.5682.44.0
1986
133.83.40.5280.2
0.6
3616.315.70.5090.62.1
1987
3310.88.70.5531.3
2.2
3715.517.20.473-0.51.2
1988
3510.210.40.4960.0
1.0
3311.912.90.479-0.30.8
1989
103.64.10.465-0.2
0.2
3314.211.60.5511.52.8
1990
 
237.98.30.485-0.10.7
1991
 
1992
 
257.48.70.460-0.50.4
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS761278.3259.90.51718.0
42.1
697300.5264.30.53224.951.1


Blyleven leads in quantity (eWins, but also eLosses) - which is consistent with his modest lead in innings pitched - and Blyleven also leads in quality (which is consistent with Blyleven's lead in ERA/ERA+).

Tommy John does lead Bert Blyleven in one traditional pitching category: won-lost record. John earned one more traditional pitching win than Blyleven over their careers (288 to 287) and 19 fewer pitching losses (231 to 250). Much of this difference is because of the quality of the teams for which they pitched: John pitched for five playoff teams, Blyleven pitched for three (although Blyleven pitched for more World Series winners than John, who pitched in three World Series (all of which matched the Los Angeles Dodgers against the New York Yankees), but on the losing side each time).

But Blyleven's performance over his career also translated into (slightly) fewer team wins that would have been expected, while John's performance over his career translated into (slightly) more team wins than expected. For example, for his career Blyleven allowed an OPS of .687 in high-leverage situations vs. .649 in low-leverage situations. John, on the other hand, did slightly better than Blyleven in high-leverage situations for his career (OPS allowed of .682) but worse in low-leverage situations (OPS allowed of .689). The next table puts their performances in context, tying player wins to team wins. This is how the two of them compare in pWins.

Tommy John Bert Blyleven
Season Games pWins pLosses Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLosses Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL
1963
61.01.20.444-0.1
0.0
1964
255.27.60.405-1.0
-0.3
1965
3912.710.10.5561.8
2.8
1966
3415.012.30.5491.8
3.0
1967
3111.511.70.4950.3
1.3
1968
2510.28.10.5571.5
2.2
1969
3313.013.00.5010.6
1.8
1970
3816.615.70.5131.1
2.5
2710.510.20.5080.51.5
1971
3813.315.20.466-0.4
0.9
3818.215.40.5412.13.6
1972
2910.79.40.5331.1
2.0
3918.017.00.5151.32.9
1973
3613.010.10.5622.0
3.0
4018.813.60.5812.94.4
1974
229.66.30.6012.0
2.6
3715.912.80.5551.83.1
1975
 
3515.111.80.5611.83.1
1976
3111.010.90.5010.5
1.3
3617.614.40.5501.73.2
1977
3116.311.10.5943.2
4.5
3013.410.70.5561.52.8
1978
3312.511.00.5311.2
2.2
3515.413.40.5361.62.8
1979
3715.710.70.5962.7
3.9
3812.912.40.5100.81.8
1980
3616.211.10.5942.7
3.9
3711.512.80.474-0.20.7
1981
208.07.00.5340.7
1.4
208.16.80.5440.81.6
1982
3711.710.50.5260.8
1.9
41.31.60.454-0.10.0
1983
3411.912.90.481-0.3
0.9
248.98.50.5130.41.2
1984
329.510.60.472-0.4
0.5
3314.39.20.6072.73.8
1985
235.26.60.439-0.6
-0.0
3717.515.10.5381.53.3
1986
134.43.30.5710.6
1.0
3617.616.80.5110.72.3
1987
3311.48.60.5691.6
2.6
3716.815.80.5150.82.5
1988
359.58.30.5330.7
1.6
3311.514.40.443-1.3-0.1
1989
103.24.30.426-0.5
-0.1
3313.99.40.5972.53.6
1990
 
236.98.30.454-0.60.2
1991
 
1992
 
257.19.80.423-1.1-0.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS761278.0247.90.52923.6
47.3
697291.3260.10.52822.247.9


Not only does Tommy John stack up pretty well against Bert Blyleven, he flat-out beats him in career pWins over positional average.

I don't think that's an argument that Bert Blyleven doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. No, that's an argument that Tommy John belongs there as well.

2018 Modern Era Hall of Fame Ballot



All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.

Home     List of Articles