#3: Phil Niekro

See the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves here.

Phil Niekro.jpgRighthanded Pitcher
Seasons With Braves: 1964-1983; 1987
Stats With Braves: 268-230, 3.20 ERA, 29 Svs

I’m going to start off by mocking the ignorance of the so-called expert baseball writers who vote on the Hall of Fame: it is ridiculous that Phil Niekro had to wait five years for induction, and makes clear that baseball writers are collectively a group of fools who wouldn’t know a great player from Tony Womack. Knucksie was a great pitcher, a dominant pitcher for all that he threw in the seventies on a good day, and focusing on his won/loss records was simply stupid. Nobody could have won with the teams the Braves put out there in the seventies. Of course, it’s no surprise that the idiots who didn’t vote Phil the two to four Cy Young Awards he actually deserved didn’t vote him into the Hall on time.

Part of the problem is that Niekro pitched until he was 48, which makes people think of him as a journeyman type, but that’s deceptive on two fronts. First, he got started pretty late: his first really full season was at 28, so his real career wasn’t any longer than a lot of other guys. Second, he was still a useful pitcher, not someone just hanging around, as late as the age of 47.

Phil made it to the majors for the first time in 1964, with the Milwaukee Braves; he made it to stay in 1966. At the time, the belief was that pitchers who threw the knuckleball as their main pitch (as opposed to the pitchers who threw it as a changeup, a style that is no longer found) were best suited to relief. Hoyt Wilhelm had had a lot of success as a relief ace, but Niekro found himself in middle and long relief for the first three years of his career.

In 1967, he finally was moved to the rotation (20 starts in 46 appearances) and went 11-9 with a 1.87 ERA, winning the ERA title. In 1968, he was 14-12, 2.59. In 1969, with an offensive boom fueled by the strike zone expansion, he actually cut his ERA to 2.56, went 23-13, and lost the Cy Young to Tom Seaver, who was even better, and who beat him in the first game of the NLCS.

Knucksie had a rough 1970, along with most of the rest of the Braves, but rebounded in 1971. His ERAs in these seasons are good; his won/loss records less so. In 1974 he was blatantly robbed of the Cy Young; he went 20-13 with a 2.38 ERA, but finished third to a pair of future teammates/washouts, Mike Marshall and Andy Messersmith, who had higher ERAs — in Dodger Stadium — and many fewer than Niekro’s 302 innings pitched.

The Braves’ offense, post-Aaron, collapsed, and the pitching other than Phil wasn’t any great shakes; Niekro inherited Hank’s role as the franchise player. From 1977-1980 he led the league in starts every year, with 43, 42, 44, and 38. He didn’t get relieved very often either, so he led the league in innings pitched the first three years of the period, and wound up with wacky won/loss records: 16-20, 19-18, 21-20, 15-18. If the Braves had scored any runs or had any defense, he’d be a legend.

Even knuckleballers wear down, and that sort of usage ended in 1981. In 1982, he had another great year, 17-4, though his ERA was only a little above average. He was only average in 1983, and after the season the Braves foolishly and offensively released him. He caught on with the Yankees and had a big year in 1984, 16-8, and pitched in the All-Star game for only the second time. He was league-average in 1985, and won his 300th game at the end of the season. Another decent year, this with the Indians followed, then he finally lost it. After a stop in Toronto, Niekro hooked on with the Braves at the end of the 1987 season, throwing three innings.

Phil Niekro Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

53 thoughts on “#3: Phil Niekro”

  1. Wow Mac, no comments yet. I don’t think it has been up long.

    A great competitor and I couldn’t agree more that the writers don’t have a clue. Yes, his rise to 300 wins was a little past his prime, but I agree that he was 90% as effective in hi mid 40’s as he had ever been. Definitely an above average pitcher almost to the end of his career.

    Never has a player tried harder to and actually succeeded at carrying his team on his back.

  2. It still irks me when people say that Phil’s not a HOFer. He did so much for a team that we so substandard; his career is seriously unappreciated by those who didn’t put up with as much bad baseball as we did. During those dark days, Phil was the only guy we could count on from year to year.

    Met him a couple times & he was wonderful.

    Once, I went to a Dodgers-Braves game in Atlanta in June of 1984. My pals & I got talking about how much we missed Niekro & how well he was doing with the Yankees & how much we could still use him on that ’84 team. Someone said, “Well, he’s pitching tomorrow night in Baltimore,” so we decided to get in the car & drive up there after the game.

    Crazy, I know, but we did it. Phil pitched well against the O’s that night in the old Memorial Stadium, but the game went 12 innings & he got no decision. (Roy Smalley won it for the Yanks with a HR.) We met Phil after the game—one of the guys’ dads served with Niekro in the Army Reserve—and he was real gracious.

  3. Living in Toronto, I remember getting Phil for the stretch run of 87. He was given 3GS ( 1 not bad, 2 baaaaad) and then Gillick dumped him and ended up back for that last swan song as a brave in 87 , at home. If my memory does not trick me, he left in the 4th leading, but leaving the bases juiced and good old Chuck Cary came in a gave up a slam and all runs charged to Knucksie ( except the hitter, a SF guy, can’t think of who the ahole was).
    Love Knucksie, was another huge reason why Mullen was a horrible GM

  4. @4

    Gee, I wonder WHY he was a .500 pitcher. Could it have something to do with the fact that when he started, the teams he played for weren’t all that great?!

  5. Niekro’s winning percentage with the Braves was .538; the Braves’ overall winning percentage during his career with the team (not counting 1987) was .487. 51 points above the team is one of the highest of any pitcher with a long career. Niekro was 268-230 with the Braves; the team was 1275-1398, a .477 winning percentage, when he didn’t get the decision.

  6. In fairness, his career ERA+ (115) isn’t too spectacular when compared against even other guys on the list: Glavine’s is 120 (which includes his poor years in NY) and Smoltzy is even better at 126. Maddux is clearly supperior with his 136 career ERA+, which is really very impressive.

    Niekro’s place is due to his longevity. The man just pitched sooooo many innings. To go for that long and maintain a consistently high level of play is incredible.

  7. I was busy making the same calculations, but I started in 1967, Niekro’s first full season. From that point through ’83, his winning percentage was .539, versus a .478 team winning percentage (they were still good in from ’64-’66, when Knucksie was up and down). That’s 61 points better-than-team. In Glavine’s full seasons, by way of comparison, he had a .633 W% for teams that had a .562 W%, a 71 point difference. Advantage Glavine.

    But Niekro pitched a much higher percentage of his team’s total IP — during the late ’70s, he was pitching more innings than anyone ever has since, or probably ever will again. That has to count for something. Does it override Glavine or Smoltz’s postseason success? Because Knucksie was a boyhood idol (I always wore #35), it pains me to say this, but I think the answer is no. I think I’d put them both in front of him. We can guess what Phil might have accomplished with better teams, but he didn’t get the opportunity. Smoltz and Glavine did, and made some serious hay.

  8. I’m sorry, don’t read your whole list, Mac. No.1-2 still remain. Just guess Hank Aaron, Greg Maddux. If not, I’m wondering who they are strong ones. I’ve never watched Aaron who played baseball in my life. So this is on subjective point of view, hmmm,,,incline to Maddux side. Don’t have a crooked mind. ^o)

    pascualperezfan :
    Actually, I’ve never seen your comments, because I don’t read every articles or comments. Speaking of living in Toronto, WOW surprised, I’m going to move in Toronto sonner or later, so need more information. I’m sure people don’t like private stories and kind of personal. In other words, I wanna talk with you like email or etc. Do you have a MSN account or Messenger?
    I’m OK anyone(braves fan or ice hocky fan) living in Toronto. If you can see my message, please let me know.

  9. Well Done! This piece put Phil Niekro’s career into proper perspective.

    Even though I am life long Braves fan, I could not follow the team in 1984. Releasing Niekro was too painful; it was a great joy to see him bounce back. It was about the only time in my life when I could endure pinstripes.

    A couple of comments from the past: if Niekro had gone 25-3 in 1974 it would have made no difference–he still would not have won the Cy Young. In 1974 baseball was enamoured with Mike Marshall and his 106 appearances. Pitching before cable, Marshall was frequently cited on available media–if not talking about his 106appearances, but as an expert of physiology. He would be introduced as Dr. Mike Marshall, who pitches for the Dodgers. Marshall was representative of the changes which were sweeping baseball; the designated hitter was new, astro turf was in, relief pitchers were becoming more important Lou Brock was redefining speed (118 steals in 1974)and Hank Aaron was chasing Babe Ruth. Ugly uniforms were to follow. Marshall was an interesting story, but he almost made starting pitching disappear from public view. Of course I am exaggerating, but to make a point.

    Niekro is one of the few players in history to be sent back to the minors (1966 –I think) because he was too good. That is, the Braves did not have anybody who could catch him in Atlanta.

    Niekro was a hero to many of us and a fine community leader. He never got to manage the Braves and suffered when Bob Gibson became Joe Torre’s pitching coach.

    Finally, my friends and I were all Niekro fans. We nicknamed him ‘the Woodsman’ because he looked like he was ready to chop wood when he batted. He was actually a pretty decent hitter. We also learned to take cover when he had a 3-0 count, because we knew that fastball (not fast and straight as an arrow) would soon make the game interesting.

    I really had hoped that Niekro would be #2, but that is a minor matter.

  10. One stat I’d love to see is the opponent’s scoring record on the day after facing Niekro. The damage a good knuckleball can do to a major league swing is legendary. And nobody was better than Phil.

    On the notion that players should be traded before their value declines: If this is true, Marcus must go, Hudson should go, and Andruw is an opportunity for JS tp display his legendary and well-documented talents for improving the team.

    Or he could sit on his butt again this winter, too.

  11. Knucksie was so good in 1969; no way a mediocre Braves team wins the division without him. I remember his shutting out the Pirates 1-0 in Pittsburgh–a team that included Clemente and Stargell and others. I also remember him losing to his brother 1-0 on the day of the first moon landing.

  12. There’s no way that this guy is “too high.” I can make a very good argument that he should actually be No. 2.

    A few additions from the Old Timers:

    1. Phil and his lesser brother Joe, who died about a month ago, learned their knuckler from their dad, a sandlot player in Ohio or PA. They used to have a competition to see who could throw the best Knuckler. Until Phil threw one that caught his dad square in the pills, and Dad never tried to catch another one.

    2. If you never saw him pitch, you really missed something. If you’re unimpressed by guys like Wakefield, or Wilbur Wood, or Steve Sparks, they didn’t have the butterfly that Phil did. Even Joe didn’t. It was an unbelievable expression of physics. The only guy in his league is Hoyt.

    3. Phil was a great athlete, which made him a good hitting pitcher and also could mix in 10-15 fastballs a game that would hit mid-80s. I saw the gun on him in his Yankees days and he was still hitting 85.

    4. Mac is dead on about Phil getting jobbed for Cy Young, etc. He was a great, great pitcher.

  13. pascual fan: great memory. I found the game box score and play by play here. Niekro loaded the bases, walked in a run, and was pulled. Candy Maldonado hit a pinch-hit HR in the next at bat.

  14. Didn’t Knucksie credit Bob Uecker, of all people, with keeping him in the league after ’66? It seems that I can remember Ueck cracking jokes on Johnny Carson’s show that his way of catching Niekro was to wait for the ball to stop rolling, then walk over and pick it up.

  15. Regarding Mike Marshall — He has three degrees from Mich. State, including a phd in kinesiology.

    Jim Bouton (another knuckleballer), in “Ball Four,” said that Marshall’s brain was a little ahead of his body and that he was a poor fit in the baseball world of the 1960s.

  16. Interesting NIekro tidbits:

    He went to high school with future basketball star John Havlicek.

    Phil gave up his brother Joe’s only MLB HR.

    And yes, Phil could hit a little bit. I’ll never forget his late-season HR against SD in 1982.

    Toronto’s awesome, if you can handle the chilly weather. But the people are super-nice, it’s the cleanest big city you’ll ever see, & there’s plenty to do. (Of course, I like hockey, so I always visit the Hockey Hall of Fame when I’m there.) It used to be a regular business trip for me & I always enjoyed it.

  17. I guess I can see why someone might put him this high because he was able to pitch so many innings in a season, but his ERA+ numbers do not paint the picture of an elite pitcher.

    My list has Smoltz and Glavine ahead of him both because they were more dominant pitchers and because of their postseason extra credit.

  18. One more memory–Niekro’s encounters with Willie Stargell. Probably no hitter had so much trouble with Knucksie. Rarely has such an intimidating hitter looked so helpless…

  19. Do the ERA+ figures take into account park effects? When Neikro pitched for the Braves, AFC Stadium was either the most or the second most extreme (maybe after Wrigley) hitter’s park in the league. That hasn’t been the case for most of the big 3’s careers. Even before Coors Field came into the league, “the Launching Pad” wasn’t as extreme as it had been in the 1960s and 70s.

  20. I’m 28, so am too young to have seen Niekro in his prime, and vaguely remember the 40-something rendition. But this thread has been particularly fun to read. Some intelligent recollections of pure baseball, before performance enhancers, HDTV and Scott Boras. It’s a nice break from the “rumors” and “hot stove” talk.

  21. ERA+ is park-adjusted. However, it’s not constant; Glavine is working against a career (park-adjusted) league ERA of 4.16, Niekro against one of 3.85. There’s obviously more space to go low compared to the former number. Also, it doesn’t account for defense (except for not counting unearned runs). The only Brave to win a Gold Glove between Torre in 1965 and Murphy in 1982 was… Phil Niekro. (Though, as noted, Evans should have won at least two.)

    Note also that Niekro’s best seasons are comparable to Glavine’s and Smoltz’s best seasons, and that Niekro does better on the Black Ink Test than either. Niekro won an ERA title, something neither Glavine nor Smoltz has done, and finished second once, which is still better than the others ever did.

  22. Towards bledsoe’s point about Phil’s versatility, my favorite Phil fact is that he won his 300th game on the final day of the 1985 season versus the Blue Jays by throwing….fastballs. The only three knucklers he threw in the game were the final three pitches in the ninth to strike out Jeff Burroughs and complete a 4-hit shutout. It was as if he’d spent 25 years setting them up….

  23. Note also that Niekro’s best seasons are comparable to Glavine’s and Smoltz’s best seasons, and that Niekro does better on the Black Ink Test than either. Niekro won an ERA title, something neither Glavine nor Smoltz has done, and finished second once, which is still better than the others ever did.

    … and did it while pitching 25% more innings per season, making his own performance more valuable.

    I think Mac got it right. Of the Atlanta Braves pitchers, I think the order of Maddux, Niekro, Glavine, Smoltz is perfect.

    If this were all-time Braves, I think it would be an interesting argument between Maddux’s incredibly high peak and long, but less so, duration and Warren Spahn’s high, but less so, peak and incredibly long duration, with Kid Nichols turn of the century numbers meriting an awfully large asterisk.

  24. it doesn’t account for defense (except for not counting unearned runs). The only Brave to win a Gold Glove between Torre in 1965 and Murphy in 1982 was… Phil Niekro.

    Niekro allowed more unearned runs (325) of any pitcher since Ted Lyons, I believe. Of his long-career contemporaries, only Jim Kaat allowed more unearned runs/9 innings. Of course, Niekro also allowed more earned runs than anyone since Cy Young.

  25. I believe that the knuckleball (which leads to passed balls, which lead to unearned runs) is part of that, though — so his ERA is actually a little lower than it should be. Not a whole lot.

  26. and did it while pitching 25% more innings per season, making his own performance more valuable.

    If you look at just their full seasons (leaving out strike years and formative years for each) it’s actually less than 14% more innings per season, once you factor in the postseason. Which I think should be done — although I hate that Phil didn’t get the opportunities that the other guys did.

    Times in the NL Top Ten for ERA:

    Niekro — 4 (1,2,4,10)
    Glavine — 8 (3,3,4,5,5,7,8,8)
    Smoltz — 7 (4,5,6,7,7,8,10)

  27. It seems fair to argue that, while Niekro finished higher in ERA in some years than the others, he did it less often (although, again, the poor defense manifests itself in more earned runs as well as unearned runs. For example, how many additional earned runs would the Big 3 have given up if Andruw wasn’t in centerfield?). There is also another point; in the years Niekro pitched, a starter would be left in to finish games if he was well ahead. So, he might give up some runs late in games that, today, would have been allowed by the bullpen. Especially with a team as bad as the Braves were.

  28. Times in the NL Top Ten for ERA:

    Niekro — 4 (1,2,4,10)
    Glavine — 8 (3,3,4,5,5,7,8,8)
    Smoltz — 7 (4,5,6,7,7,8,10)

    Yeah. Color me unimpressed with the ERA title and black ink arguments. Glavine and Smoltz were just better when they were out there. Niekro’s lone edge is the rubber arm, which of course is significant.

    I’ll still take Glavine and Smoltz ahead of Phil.

  29. Really, the differences among Niekro, Glavine, and Smoltz (the order in which I’ve always been used to carrying them around in my head and heart) are smaller than I ever would have thought. Niekro was an unparalleled workhorse with scattered seasons of true brilliance, Glavine’s got the 20-win seasons along with 2 Cy’s and Game 6, and Smoltz with the rate stats, the variety of roles, the all-encompassing postseason success, and organizational loyalty. Today I think it’s Smoltz, Glavine, Niekro, but ask me tomorrow and it could be in any other order. Interesting stuff.

  30. I’ve got it Glavine, Smoltz, Niekro because John lost some prime time to injury but I agree it’s very close among the three.

  31. Ahhh it was the Candy Man that smacked the slam of Cary, thanks for looking it up, I forgot that he walked 6, yikes. Still think he could have been effective in 88, and even better then Yates in 07
    I would love to talk about the big smoke- Toronto

  32. Times with 250+ innings pitched:

    Niekro 11
    Glavine 0
    Smoltz 2

    Move it down to 225+
    Niekro 14
    Glavine 7 (and one 224.2)
    Smoltz 8

    Top ten is nice, but actual innings pitched have value that transcends the time at which it was accomplished.

    And Niekro had as many superstar years as either Glavine or Smoltz.

    ERA+ of 150 or better as a starter (30 or more starts)
    Niekro 2
    Glavine 2
    Smoltz 0

    Glavine had more of the run-of-the-mill all-star seasons than did Niekro, who edged Smoltz here too. (Smoltz keeps just missing one threshold or the other, having an injury that forced him to miss 3-7 of his starts a year, but that also may have kept his rate stats more impressive.)

    ERA+ of 125 or better as a starter (30 or more starts)
    Niekro 6
    Glavine 10
    Smoltz 5

    No offense intended, but I think this is a question of the youth believing that nothing was ever as good before as it is when they are in their own prime. I’m willing to bet that none of the people ranking Smoltz ahead of Niekro are even 35 years old. His last really good season was 24 years ago. To put that into context, in the other active thread, we are talking about Kelly Johnson. Johnson was born that year. So were Macay McBride, Lil’ Tony Pena, Brayan Pena. So were David Wright, Frankie Rodriguez, Dontrelle Willis, and Grady Sizemore. Jeff Francouer and Brian McCann weren’t even born was Niekro was waived after the 1983 season.

  33. I’m willing to bet that none of the people ranking Smoltz ahead of Niekro are even 35 years old.

    C’mon Dan, the ‘you young whippersnappers’ argument? You are better than that.

    It’s close. Smoltz gets some bonus points for closing and post season heroics. Reasonable people can disagree.

    Oh, and arbitrary endpoints suck.

  34. I turned 40 yesterday (whoo hoo), and as I pointed out earlier, Niekro has always been number one in my heart. My father is six months younger than Niekro, so while Phil was active I always used to tell Dad that it wasn’t too late to learn to throw the knuckleball.

    As I said, it’s with no great amount of pleasure that I say I now think Smoltz and Glavine should rank ahead of Knucksie, because it runs counter to the inverse of the “whippersnapper” argument, aka the “sepia-toned old fart” argument. It’s easy for those of us who remember Niekro so well (and I’ll estimate that I saw 75% of his SuperStation starts from 1975-1983, and in person 20+ times) to compress our memories to those times when the flutterball was working its magic and he did his best to carry some awful teams.

    But the fact is, there were also a lot of times when the flutterball wasn’t fluttering, and Niekro would struggle for weeks. I remember those times, too. Niekro had extended periods of mediocre performance in his prime that Glavine and Smoltz didn’t suffer, because of the unpredictable nature of the knuckler. That stuff counts.

    If you’ll suffer an argument involving ERA+, here are their respective seven worst seasons:

    Niekro: 98,101,103,104,111,115,115
    Glavine: 81,94,99,105,107,123,127
    Smoltz: 103,103,104,112,124,126,127

    Glavine’s three worst seasons were his first three — after he figured it out, he almost never had a season that wasn’t damn good. And Smoltz has never had a below-average season — hasn’t even been close to average since 1994.

    But those iffy seasons of Niekro’s are sprinkled throughout his career. He does of course get extra credit for how hard he worked, and he pitched 40%+ more innings than either of the other two. But you’re not even considering postseason — it’s not Niekro’s fault that he didn’t get the opportunities that the others did. But he didn’t, they did, and they authored far, far more signature moments in the history of the team than Niekro ever had the chance to do.

  35. Well Robert, the argument wasn’t “you young whippersnappers.” It was many more IP, AND as many superstar seasons, AND as good an overall performance, AND “you young whippersnappers.” ;-)

    I agree about arbitrary endpoints generally. But the only one I think I may be accused of skirting is the Games Started qualifier. Smoltz, in his prime, had seasons where because of injury, he started 26, 29 and zero times. He probably would have made the threshold in the strike impacted years of ’94 and ’95, but in 1994 he was mediocre and in ’95 he continued a pattern of pitching his best when his workload is more limited than the others we are talking about here.

    I disagree about Smoltz getting bonus points for closing. I think it is an easier role and less valuable. I think his personal stats look better – no way he puts up a better than 200 ERA+ (let alone 370) as a starter while he did as a reliever.

    I do think Smoltz should get bonus points for the post-season. I think that is very important. But I don’t think it is enough to make up for the substantial edge in IP with a very similar level of in-season performance. Knucksie, by my back of the envelope calculation, had a 124 ERA+ for the Braves in about 4700 IP, Glavine 127 (estimated) in 3200 IP, Smoltz 126 in 3100 IP.

    Think about that: if Smoltz has 225 IP a season without declining one iota in performance, he needs to pitch until 2013 just to match Niekro. Give Smoltz triple credit for each IP in the playoffs, and he is still *a thousand* innings pitched behind Niekro!

  36. Sansho – you are clearly a very young 40! You even type faster than I do.

    I think the poor ERA+ seasons count, but when the overall performance is so similar AND the quantity of performance so dissimilar … I think Niekro has the edge. I do note that your list of ERA+ seasons does not reflect playing time. Smoltz has indeed pitched well — when he has taken the hill. But he has not done so consistently over a career. And the career Brave ERA+ is well within the margin of error for that stat. (And considering the difference in defenses behind the two and the difference in quality of the field itself in Fulton Co, etc. …)

    This isn’t to take anything away from Smotlz or especially Glavine. I think Glavine will waltz into the Hall and Smoltz is a near elite also.

  37. I agree with all the evidence you’re presenting. And if Niekro pitched during the glory days, there’s no doubt he’d rank above the others, and maybe above Maddux. I’d love to have seen it, and he must look at what happened after he retired and wondered what might have been.

  38. I reckon I’m about as young a 40 as it’s possible to be, thanks! :)

    Thanks also to Mac for providing the forum for all this bloviating — I’m enjoying it greatly.

  39. I’ve given my rankings already, of course… But the way I see it, it’s at least arguable that Niekro’s peak was equivalent to Glavine’s and/or Smoltz’s, and his career value is higher. FWIW, his postseason record, while short, is pretty good. He lost in the 1969 NLCS but pitched okay, four runs in eight innings. He was leading 1-0 after four when rain washed out the first try of Game 1 in 1982, and was leading 3-2 when he left in Game 2 — on one day’s rest — but Garber blew the save. His postseason ERA is 3.86 and would be lower with the four innings that were washed out.

  40. Also, I suggest everyone read James’ essay on knuckleballers and the Cy Young Award on pp. 287-289 of the New Historical Abstract. Niekro rates as the top pitcher in the league four times by win shares. Glavine rates as the top pitcher in the league once, in 1991; Smoltz is just a shade behind Brown in 1996 and could come out ahead with a slightly different method. I didn’t use WS in this ranking, but it’s not indefensible by any means.

  41. @44

    I love that essay. It does make a good point. But Atlanta was in its “Toledo period” (James again ;) ) when Niekro was pitching his absolute best.

  42. I don’t dock Smoltz for his years as closer, especially as the team needed him in that spot. I look at those years as particularly heroic for Smoltz. People often denigrate the closer role, but when you close the way Smoltz closed, he kind of destroyed that argument. He was damn-near perfect. The role is the role & he was unreal at it.

    Does it mean I’d rank him higher than Glavine, Niekro or Maddux? No, but I kinda don’t bother splitting those hairs either. They’re all great Braves & it doesn’t matter to me who’s #1 or #4 or whatever.

  43. I’m sorry this is totally off topic

    Thanks a lot, pascualperezfan. I’ll get in touch with you soon.

    Thanks a lot your kindness, ububba
    Yes, Toronto is a big city. I’ve lived big cities, big entrance examinations, big test for service in a business company during my life. I am fed up with them but I’ll survive.
    I had a couple of chances before. My parents didn’t want to go anywhere. But I think maybe this is my destiny. My only big problem is my mom who will cry every single day. The die is thrown.
    If you don’t mind, please give me a chance watching a hockey game afterwards.

  44. But the way I see it, it’s at least arguable that Niekro’s peak was equivalent to Glavine’s and/or Smoltz’s,

    If I can find a peak for Niekro, I’ll argue it with you. He never had more than two seasons in a row with a ERA+ of over 120, and that’s with his ERA+ generally overstating his effectiveness because it excludes all his unearned runs which you have to believe – being a knuckleballer – are largely his ‘fault’.

    Knucksie, by my back of the envelope calculation, had a 124 ERA+ for the Braves in about 4700 IP,

    I have him for a 119 ERA+ in 4533 IP with Atlanta. Glavine is 123 in 3345 IP and Smoltz is 126 in 3162 IP. That’s closer than I would have thought. Phil’s ERA+ is a little misleading but it still might be close enough to the other two that his innings push him over the top.

    Still splitting hairs here. I’m sticking with Glavine, Smoltz, Neikro…but I can certainly see the arguement…

  45. Knucksie, by my back of the envelope calculation, had a 124 ERA+ for the Braves in about 4700 IP,

    I have him for a 119 ERA+ in 4533 IP with Atlanta. Glavine is 123 in 3345 IP and Smoltz is 126 in 3162 IP.

    I just re-ran my numbers and used a spreadsheat instead of trying to do it on scrap paper by hand. Here is what I come up with:

    Niekro 4619 IP 122.6 ERA+
    Glavine 3345 IP 126.9 ERA+

    Smoltz, I can pull from baseball-reference (I love Sean Forman!) with the same figure you have.

    I’m not sure where the differences are. I include the Milwaukee years. But taking them out adds 0.2 and moves us further apart. (And I just noticed that I also missed the 3 IP reunion tour, but that 1987 performance has a negligible effect.) I don’t know if this is mathematically sound, but I multiply the seasonal IP by the ERA+ for each year, sum those, and divide by the total IP. There may be a minor rounding error because I list partial innings as either .3 or .7 instead of .33333333 and .66666667, but that shouldn’t account for much of a difference.

    I suspect that there is no meaningful difference between your 119 figure and my 123. I am, however, curious whether my method is statistically sound.

  46. The ERA+ times IP method doesn’t work well because of the large rounding error in the ERA+ number. IP times the LgERA, or better BFP times LgERA is the weighted average you want. Or at least that’s what will allow you to duplicate what’s on baseball-reference.com.

  47. Robert ~ Thanks, but I’m not sure I understand the formula you suggest. Is career ERA+ equal to [the sum of each (seasonal BFP*LgERA*ERA+)] dividided by (career BFP*LgERA)?

    … and now I’m hoping the brackets don’t screw up the html here!

  48. Let’s try this:

    1) Compute LgERA * BFP for each season and sum them to get a career LgERA* BFP total.

    2) Divide this by the career BFP total. This is your career LgERA number.

    3) Compute the career ERA, which is of course Car ER * 9 / Car IP

    4)Take 100 * (Car LgERA)/(Car ERA). That’s your career OPS+

    When I say ‘career’ I mean any subset of years you want to consider. For Glavine’s Atlanta years I get:

    Car LgERA*BFP = 57998.91
    Car BFP = 14030
    Car LgERA = 4.1339
    Car ERA = 3.369
    Car OPS+ = 122.7

    And again by career I mean his Atlanta career.

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