– The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
ZiPS sees Richard as a little bit above his head in 1980, with 1979 being his career peak, but the computer is overall more merciful, giving him a more typical decline phase for a power pitcher, with the increase in league strikeout rate keeping those numbers up as he aged. In the end, ZiPS gives him 125 more wins for a total of 232, along with enough WAR to pass the 70 mark; his 73 WAR would rank 27th all-time today and 18th when he would have first been eligible for Hall of Fame induction in the mid-90s. Voters then were not using WAR, but I think 232 wins plus the dominance at his peak plus mercy for being a late-bloomer would have been enough to get him into the Hall. If not, he certainly would have been inducted by now.
If Richard had been born 40 years later, continuing his career even with an injured arm would have been a distinct possibility. Thoracic outlet syndrome is far better known around baseball than now it was at the time, and while it’s still difficult to treat, it has been done. At the very least, I’d hope that the shaming of a player’s circulatory issues as a character flaw would be absent or at least muted compared to 1980. Richard’s case has been studied by surgeons, and hopefully, part of his legacy is that his struggles will give pitchers today with similar issues a better shot at the second chance he did not get.
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