Goose Gossage has been elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. I haven’t done any meaningful analysis of whether Gossage deserves his selection, and such an analysis might not be easy because the way relief pitchers are used has changed from era to era. However, one can compare Gossage with the two other relievers from his era who are in the Hall of Fame — Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers. A quick eye-balling of the numbers of these three suggests that Gossage has a decent case for induction.
Unlike Sutter and Fingers, Gossage was a pure power pitcher. In fact, on an August night in Baltimore in 1980, Gossage was the most overpowering pitcher (starter or reliever) I’ve ever seen in person. His is the only fastball that (at least on that night) I’ve ever been unable to follow, and the few times he threw something other than a fastball, the ball seemed momentarily suspended in mid air.
UPDATE: In reviewing the box score and play-by-play of that August 15, 1980 game, I noticed that the next night, after pitching two and a third overpowering innings, Gossage came back and ptiched two more. The Orioles, who were vying with the Yankees for first place, didn’t get a hit either night. Nowadays, it seems like a team’s top relief pitcher has a legal cause of action if he’s called on to work multiple innings on back-to-back nights during the regular season.
Oddly, Gossage was converted to starter after he had already established himself as a top reliever. In 1975, Gossage led the American League in saves and had an ERA of 1.84. Yet the following year, White Sox manager Paul Richards had him start 29 games (and relieve in only two). Gossage posted a 9-17 record and a 3.94 ERA. The White Sox finished last, Richards was let go, and Gossage never started again.
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