Tiant played 19 seasons in the big leagues while Hunter played 16. Remember arm strain and diabetes led to his career ending a little prematurely. Tiant (229-172) had barely more wins and losses than Hunter. (224-166) Because of that, Hunter held the edge in winning percentage .588-.571. Hunter had the better ERA (3.13-3.30) and WHIP. (1.134-1.199) Tiant had more complete games (484-476) and shutouts. (49-42) Tiant held the edge in innings pitched (3486 1/3- 3449 1/3) and was more dominant as a strikeout pitcher. (2416-2012)
Some of the stats favor Tiant, but it is still fairly close. So, why is Hunter a no doubt Hall of Famer and Tiant has to wait for the Veterans Committee to hopefully elect him someday? Looking at the regular season stats, it looks similar, but Hunter distinguishes himself for two major reasons. First of all, Catfish was one of the most successful postseason pitchers to pitch in the game. He was on five World Series winning teams, pitching for the Athletics that won in 1972, 1973 and 1974 then the Yankees in 1977 and 1978. (He also pitched in the World Series when the Yankees lost to the Reds in 1976.) Tiant's only trip to the fall classic was in 1975 when the Red Sox lost to the Reds.
It also needs to be noted how dominant Hunter was. In baseball history, Hunter joined only Cy Young and Christi Mathewson as the only pitchers in baseball history to win 200 games before the age of 31. No question if Hunter had stayed healthy for a couple more years he could have won 300 games and been amongst the best ever. Unfortunately, his career came to an end after the 1979 season, while Tiant kept pitching until 1982. Also, only Walter Johnson (10), Lefty Grove (7), and Bob Feller (5) had as many consecutive 20 win seasons as Catfish Hunter.
I clearly understand why Catfish Hunter is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the best pitcher in the 1970s and was an impeccable winner. Tiant was a very good pitcher and in the end, his numbers match up very well with that of the Hall of Famer Hunter's. But Tiant had his fifteen years on the ballot, topping off with 30.9% of the vote in 1988; his first year of eligibility. After that, he was never close again, having only as much as 18% of the vote for his last year of eligibility in 2002. I feel Tiant should be a Hall of Famer, and I think eventually the Veterans Committee will vote him in. The fact that his regular season numbers match up so well with those of Hunter's means it just a matter of time.