Baseball Hall of Fame Debate: Catfish Hunter vs. Luis Tiant

Luis Tiant and the Hall of Fame

Shop for Boston Red Sox fan gear from Nike, Majestic and New Era at

Boston Red Sox Gear

Luis Tiant Belongs in the Hall of Fame

Jim “Catfish” Hunter

Jim “Catfish” Hunter was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on his third time on the ballot in 1987, with 76.3% of the vote. In 1986 and 1985 Catfish was named on 68% and 53.7% of the ballots, respectively. Catfish, a fierce competitor, won 200 games before the age of 31 and was voted the Cy Young Award in 1974.

The right hander threw a perfect game in 1968. The perfect game along with the unassisted triple play and hitting two grand slams in one game is one of the rarest individual feats in baseball. When Catfish hurled his perfect game it was the just the ninth time it had been done in major league history. Tossing a perfect game, however, is not a litmus test for admission into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Catfish won the Cy Young award in 1974 and won twenty games a season five years in a row from 1971-1975 with the World Championship A’s and the American League Champions the New York Yankees earning him a place in Cooperstown.

Catfish Hunter’s Lifetime Statistics (click to enlarge):

Shop for official Oakland Athletics fan gear from Majestic, Nike and New Era at
catfish hunter stats

Luis Tiant

Luis Tiant, was Hunter’s contemporary as Tiant began his major league career in 1964 and Hunter in 1965. Catfish played his entire career in the American League as did Tiant but for nine games that he pitched in the National League for the Pittsburg Pirates in 1981 at the end of his career. Hunter and Tiant both pitched for the New York Yankees in 1979. Catfish finished his career in 1979 and Tiant his in 1982.

Luis Tiant was first eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. He never came close to gaining admission. The most votes he ever got were the first year he appeared on the ballot. That year he was named on just 30.9% of the ballots. During Tiant’s next fifteen years on the ballot he was never named on more than 18% of the ballots (in 2002 – his last year of eligibility) and was named on only 7.2% of the ballots in 1991.

Tiant was as good a pitcher as Hunter on any given money game and over the course of his career. Arguably, Tiant was the better pitcher having won the same number of games and at the same winning percentage but with teams that were losers.

If Catfish Hunter strode into the Hall of Fame, Luis Tiant with a record every bit as comparable as Hunter’s should also be given serious reconsideration.

Luis Tiant’s Lifetime Statistics (click to enlarge):

Shop for Boston Red Sox fan gear from Nike, Majestic and New Era at

Luis Tiant stats

Here is the break down of the career and single year statistics of each of Luis Tiant and Jim Catfish Hunter.

Career Wins, Losses, Winning Percentage and Earned Run Averages

hunter vs tiant wins losses winning percentage era

Lifetime statistics

As you can see from the above, Hunter’s and Tiant’s career wins, losses, winning percentages and ERA’s are virtually identical with neither pitcher having a clear advantage. Tiant won five more games in his career than Hunter and lost six more, resulting in a winning percentage just .003% lower than Hunter’s. Tiant’s ERA was also a touch higher at 3.30 to Hunter’s 3.26. Based on these career statistics Messr. Hunter and Tiant are about as equal as you can get.

Single Season Achievements

Single season chieivements are important because they highlight whether a player was dominant during his playing days or merely amassed great career statistics as a result of longevity like Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. Hunter and Tiant were each dominant pitchers for about 6-8 seasons.

Single Season Wins, Losses, Winning Percentages and Earned Run Averages

Catfish Hunter’s Best Season Statistics

Wins – 25 (1974)
Losses – 5 (1973)
Winning Percentage – .808 (1973)
ERA – 2.04 (1972)

Luis Tiant’s Best Season Statistics
Wins – 22 (1974)
Losses – 6 (1972)
Winning Percentage – .714 (1972)
ERA – 1.60 (1968)

In their best seasons both pitchers were equally dominant. In Hunter’s best seasons he had more wins, fewer losses and a higher winning percentage, but so did the teams he pitched for.

Hunter’s 1974 Oakland A’s finished 1st in American League West with a 90-72 record. Catfish won 25 of the 90 games the A’s won that year, or 27.78% of the games.

Tiant’s 1974 Boston Red Sox finished 3rd in American League East with a 84-78 record. Tiant won 22 of the 84 games the Indians won that year or 26.2% of the games.

*Tiant’s best single season ERA of 1.60 in 1968 is the second best from 1919-1968 and was not bettered until 1985 by Dwight Gooden in 1985 when he posted a 1.53 ERA.

Career Games, Complete Games, Shutouts and Innings Pitched

hunter tiant games complete games shutouts innings pitched

Lifetime statistics

*Luis Tiant’s 49 shutouts places him 21st on the all time shut out list equal with or ahead of many Hall of Famers including Don Drysdale, Ferguson Jenkins, Early Wynn, Whitey Ford, Phil Niekro, Robin Roberts, Red Ruffing Bob Feller and Catfish Hunter who hurled 42 shutouts.

Single Season Games, Complete Games, Shutouts and Innings Pitched

Catfish Hunter’s Best Season Statistics

Games – 41 (1974)
Complete Games – 30 (1975)
Shutouts – 7 (1975)
Innnings Pitched 328 (1975)

Luis Tiant’s Best Season Statistics
Games – 43 (1972)
Complete – Games 25 (1974)
Shutouts – 9 (1968)
Innnings Pitched – 311 (1974)

Tiant led the league three times in shutouts (1966, 1968, 1974). Hunter never did. Both pitchers were work horses who started and completed many games.

Shop for official Cleveland Indians fan gear from Majestic, Nike and New Era at

Career Hits, Runs, Earned Runs and Home Runs

Hunter Tiant hits, runs, earned runs and home runs

Lifetime statistics

On off days Tiant and Hunter could get hit pretty badly as their life time and single season stats show. Both could get tagged with the long ball.

Single Season Hits, Runs, Earned Runs and Home Runs

Catfish Hunter’s Worst Season Statistics

Hits – 268 (most) (1974) (1976)
Runs – 126 (most) (1976)
Earned Runs – 117 (most) (1976)
Home Runs -39 (most) (1973)

Luis Tiant’s Worst Season Statistics
Hits – 281 (most) (1974)
Runs – 126 (most) (1975)
Earned Runs – 116 (most) (1975)
Home Runs – 37 (most) (1969)

Hunter led the league twice in earned runs (1968) (1976) and in homeruns given up (1973) (1976) and gave up more than 30 home runs in three seasons. Tiant led the American League in home runs given up once and gave up more than 30 home runs in two seasons.

Career Walks and Strike Outs

Hunter Tiant walks strike outs

Lifetime statistics

Tiant struck out more than 200 batters a season three times. Hunter never did it.

Single Season Walks and Strike Outs

Catfish Hunter’s Best/Worst Season Statistics

Walks – 85 (most) (1969)
Strike Outs – 196 (most) (1967)

Luis Tiant’s Best/Worst Season Statistics
Walks – 129 (most) (1969)
Strike Outs – 264 (most) (1968)

Strike outs and walks are the only areas where there is a clear difference between Hunter and Tiant. Hunter had better control and walked fewer batters while Tiant struck out more batters and could bring it if needed to get the strike out.


Luis Tiant and Catfish Hunter had astonishingly similar careers and single season stats. They played in the same league and even for the same team during the same year. Yet, Catfish Hunter is in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Luis Tiant is not. If Hunter is deserving of a place in Cooperstown, so is Luis Tiant.

Also compare Tiant’s career statistics to Hall of Famers Don Drysdale and Jim Bunning.

Shop for New York Yankees fan gear from Nike, Majestic and New Era at

Further Reading:

MLB No Hitter List

MLB Unassisted Triple Plays

List of MLB players hitting two grand slams in one game

Post Navigation