Visualizing Hall of Fame Pitchers in Context

When comparing Hall of Fame pitchers, you have to judge them in the context of their era. Why? Well, because pitching has changed a bit over the years.

K9overyears500

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  • Each gold bar represents every pitcher in the Hall of Fame that pitched in 1940 or later. The height of the bars are set at that pitcher's career average strikeout rate (K/9), and the length lines up with years active.
  • The white line behind all of the bars is the league average strikeout rate over time. It's actually doubled since the 1940s, sitting at 7.13 in 2010. Last year was the first year in history that the league-wide K/9 was above 7.
  • Bob Feller (the first gold bar above 6.00, starting in 1936) is not a member of the 3000 strikeout club. Don Sutton (the gold bar to the right of Feller's, starting in 1966) is, but it's pretty obvious who deserves more praise for their ability to blow hitters away. Feller was miles above his peers, whereas Sutton has several pitchers of his era to look up to.
  • That gold bar way in the bottom corner isn't my mistake. That's Ted Lyons (career 2.10 K/9). I'm going to guess that he's the only Hall of Famer who has more career walks than strikeouts.
  • The Hall ballot is going to be very very crowded, very very soon. Some recent retirees who have a career K/9 north of 8.00: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Trevor Hoffman, Curt Schilling, and Roger Clemens.
  • The two players above the chart title should be fairly easy to guess. They're two of the greatest strikeout pitchers to ever play the game.
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