Does Luis Tiant Deserve Induction into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Luis Tiant was born with baseball in his genes. He is the son of a Major League Baseball caliber father, Luis Tiant, Sr., also known as El Zurdo (lefty in Spanish). Luis Tiant, Sr. was a renowned pitcher for the New York Cubans in the Negro Leagues and many agree that Sr. would have enjoyed a propsperous major league career.

Luis Tiant, Boston Red Sox pitcher - Hall of Fame Worthy?

The question posed is whether Luis Tiant deserves induction into Major League baseball’s Hall of Fame. And the quick answer is yes. When compared to current members of the Hall of Fame who are pitchers, Tiant ranks right with them and remember that Tiant pitched the majority of his career in the bandbox that is Fenway Park whose left field extends only 315′ from home plate to the famous “Green Monster”. Moreover, one of Luis Tiant’s greatest accomplishments was resurrecting his career after severe arm problems and a 9-20 record with the Cleveland Indians in 1969. He was traded to the Minnesota Twins for the 1970 season but then to the Boston Red Sox in 1971 where he anchored the pitching staff for 8 years and earned 20+ victories in three of those eight seasons.

Player Yrs W L ERA SO WHIP SO/9 K:BB 20 Ws
Bob Gibson 17 251 174 2.91 3117 1.188 7.2 2.33 5
Catfish Hunter 15 224 166 3.26 2012 1.134 5.2 2.11 5
Don Drysdale 14 209 166 2.95 2486 1.148 6.5 2.91 2
Don Sutton 23 324 256 3.26 3574 1.142 6.1 2.66 1
Fergie Jenkins 19 284 226 3.34 3192 1.142 6.4 3.2 7
Gaylord Perry 22 314 265 3.11 3534 1.181 5.9 2.56 5
Juan Marichal 16 243 142 2.89 2303 1.101 5.9 3.25 6
Luis Tiant 19 229 172 3.3 2416 1.199 6.2 2.19 4
Nolan Ryan 27 324 292 3.19 5714 1.247 9.5 2.04 2
Phil Niekro 24 318 274 3.35 3342 1.268 5.6 1.85 3
Steve Carlton 24 329 244 3.22 4136 1.247 7.1 2.26 6
Tom Seaver 20 311 205 2.86 3640 1.121 6.8 2.62 5

Almost as impressive was his 15 wins in his first full year with the Red Sox in 1972 where he led the Major League’s with an ERA of 1.91. Then, in 1973, Tiant won 20 games and completed 23 games. In 1974, he won 22 games and completed 25 games, astounding numbers especially when compared to contemporary pitchers. In 1973, his WHIP of 1.085 led the league. In 1974, he earned 7 shutouts which also led the league. Overall, Tiant won 229 games and although the magic number required for pitchers to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is 300, it should be noted that current members Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale had fewer wins than Tiant. It is possible to conceive that Tiant wold have won 300 games without his arm problems.

Most sports fans are aware of El Tiante’s famous windup where, in the middle of it, his hips twist toward center field, his left leg and head swinging with the twist and his head adding the extra movement of looking up to the sky, all before finally swinging back to face the batter and his catcher for delivery. What is mostly unnoticed is that he developed that move in response to his arm problems in Cleveland. By swinging and twisting his body before the pitch, he was able to create greater torque from other parts of his body thus creating less stress on his arm. The added benefit is that the ball in this new windup was hidden in his glove until the last moment reducing the batter’s response time to the delivered pitch.

Comparing Luis Tiant to 11 pitchers previously inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame

  • Seasons: tied with Fergie Jenkins for most seasons pirched: 19. Pitched more seasons than Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Catfish Hunter, Don Drysdale
  • Wins: Earned 229 wins, more than Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale
  • Losses: with 172 losses, has fewer lossses than Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Steve Carlton, Fergie Jenkins, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson
  • ERA: At 3.30, better ERA than Fergie Jenkins and Phil Niekro
  • Games: 573. Pitched more games than Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Catfish Hunter, Juan Marichal
  • IP: 3,486.1. Threw more innings than Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale
  • H: 3,075. Only Catfish Hunter gave up fewer hits and Tiant pitched in Fenway Park where the Wall is only 315′ from home plate
  • R: 1,400. Only Drysdale, Marichal and Hunter allowed fewer runs
  • ER: 1,280. Allowed fewer earned runs than Tom Seaver, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro
  • HR: 346, pitching in Fenway Park. Those allowing more home runs were Catfish Hunter, Tom Seaver, Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Fergie Jenkins
  • BB: 1,104. Only Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Catfish Hunter, and Fergie Jenkins allowed fewer walks
  • SO: 2,416. Struck out more batters than Hunter and Marichal
  • WHIP (Walks and Hits/Innings Pitched): 1.199. Allowed fewer walks and hits per inning than Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro
  • H/9: 7.9. Seems like alot of hits to give up per every 9 innings but Tiant allowed fewer hits than Don Sutton, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Steve Carlton, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry and Phil Niekro
  • SO/9: 6.2. Struck out more batters per 9 innings than Catfish Hunter, Phil Niekro, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and Don Sutton
  • K:BB: 2.19. His ratio of strikeouts to walks is better than Catfish Hunter, Nolan Ryan, and Phil Niekro
  • # of 20-win seasons: 4. Enjoyed more 20-win seasons than Phil Niekro, Don Drysdale (2), Nolan Ryan (2), and Don Sutton (1)
  • Playoffs: 4 GS, 3-0, ERA: 2.86 (less than his career avg of 3.30), 34.2 IP.

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