The Veterans Committee elected Jim Bunning to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1996. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998. There will not be any comments with respect to Bunning's political career, but his election to the Hall of Fame was an error.
Bunning was deemed worthy to be a Hall of Fame member after having been on the regular ballot for 15 years and never receiving enough votes for entrance. His pitching record was very good, but it was far from great.
With a career record of 224-184 (.549), Bunning is not among those Hall of Fame pitchers that are leaders in career wins. He had a 3.27 ERA, compared to a league 3.74 ERA.
A workhorse, Bunning averaged over 220 innings a season and completed 151 of his 519 starts, including 40 shutouts.
On Father’s Day, 1964, Bunning pitched a perfect game against the New York Mets. In 1958, as a member of the Detroit Tigers, he no-hit the Boston Red Sox.
Bunning was the first pitcher to win 100 games and strike out 1,000 batters in each league, but he never appeared in the World Series.
Bunning cannot be expunged from the Hall of Fame, yet he averaged 13 wins and 11 losses a season.
This brings us to Curt Schilling. Those that vote for entrance into the Hall of Fame must unequivocally reject Schilling. His career statistics are too similar to Bunning’s. Don’t claim that is why Schilling belongs. Schilling is the reason Bunning doesn’t belong.
The fact that Schilling was in four different World Series is not enough to overcome his regular season career record. To repeat, it was very good, but not good enough.
Bunning won 224 games. Schilling won 216 games. Tommy John (where does Tommy John come in?) won 288 games (oh, wins). John has a big edge over both Bunning and Schlling. Fine, wins are not among the most effective ways to measure a pitcher's greatness.
Bunning had a 114 ERA+ and a 1.179 WHIP.
Schilling had a 128 ERA+ and a 1.137 WHIP.
John had a 111 ERA+ and a 1.283 WHIP.
Schilling has a slight edge over Bunning and a reasonable edge over John in ERA+ and in WHIP. The numbers are similar but don’t come close to those of Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton.
Let's turn to Bert Blyleven, who finally made the Hall of Fame in 2011. Blyleven won 287 games, had a 3.31 ERA, a 118 ERA+ and a 1.198 WHIP.
Thus far, nothing has been determined definitively using traditional statistics. When comparing Schilling to Bunning, John and Blyleven, one can conclude that John and Schilling should join Bunning and Blyleven in the Hall or one can argue just as effectively that none is a Hall of Famer.
And now along comes WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
PITCHER WAR WINS
Bunning 60.1 224
Schilling 69.7 216
John 59.0 288
Blyleven 90.1 287
Seaver 105.3 311
Schilling falls in with Bunning with respect to WAR. Blyleven is closer to Seaver than to Bunning, Schilling or John.
Schilling and Bunning belong in the Hall of the Very Good.