Sunday, July 03, 2005


July 3rd, 1912

Rube Marquard Wins 19th Straight Game

I have, in the past, knocked Rube Marquard as the worst pitcher in the Hall of Fame but have never really explained why. Today's date gives me a chance to both explain myself, and to illustrate just why Marquard is in the Hall of Fame. Sometimes it is necessary to break down statistics into time-era adjustments and other bits of detail to explain why players do (or don't) belong in the Hall of Fame, but in Marquard's case, it’s pretty simple. His career line is a mediocre 201-177, 3.08. Even that is deceptive however, as Marquard won more than thirty-five percent of those games in just three years of his eighteen year career. He never led his league in ERA, and indeed finished in the top five just twice. He did lead his league in wins (26 in 1912) but also led his league in losses (18 in 1918). Bill James' "Black Ink Test" measures how often a player appeared in the Boldface text that denotes a league leader. While the average Hall of Famer has a score of forty, Marquard has an eleven. Players who no one would consider a Hall of Famers but who have the same or better Black Ink Test scores include David Wells, Eddie Lopat, Bob Friend and Spud Chandler, and those are just the names I turned up in five minutes of random searching on BaseballReference.

Now, I'm not saying we should storm the Hall of Fame and pull Marquard's plaque off the wall, but I think it’s pretty clear the man simply doesn't belong. He wasn't a bad pitcher; it’s not like putting Scott Kamieniecki in there, but he really should be in the Hall of Very Good (Located in lovely Millstone, NJ). As to why Marquard is in the real Hall of Fame, it has to do with three things. The first was his arrival in the big leagues. Marquard was bought by the Giants for either $13,000 or $11,000 depending on who one asks. After an unimpressive debut, he was mocked as the "$13,000 Lemon," but it made his name prominent. Later for the Giants he had vast success, highlighted in 1912 by the nineteen game winning streak that went to this day. Marquard would lose his next start, supposedly in part because he bought an opal stickpin which jinxed him. Finally, he pitched for five NL pennant winners, although no World Series victors. All of this combined to make him a prime candidate for election by the overly generous Veterans Committee and they did so in 1971.

So, now my conscience is clear and I can say it knowing I've explained in painstaking detail why: Rube Marquard, Worst Pitcher in the Hall of Fame.

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