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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Luckiest Pitching Staff in History

If you find yourself caught in a lightning storm, you’ll want to huddle with these guys.

gehrig97 Posted: March 20, 2018 at 05:02 PM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: anthony young, christy mathewson, jack coombs, lefty gomez, pitching

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   1. Hank G. Posted: March 20, 2018 at 11:16 PM (#5640720)
A little off-topic, but the history of the American League might have been much different if Connie Mack wasn’t so undercapitalized.
   2. gehrig97 Posted: March 21, 2018 at 10:48 AM (#5640827)
You could very well be right--when one thinks of the talent that Mack lost with his periodic fire sales... wow.
   3. Bored Posted: March 21, 2018 at 03:25 PM (#5641098)
Storm Davis actually was originally scheduled to pitch in Game 4 of the '89 series but with the long layoff after the earthquake LaRussa elected to bring back Dave Stewart and Mike Moore to pitch Games 3 and 4.
   4. Batman Posted: March 21, 2018 at 04:30 PM (#5641154)
The three pitchers who started for the Giants in the 1989 Series combined for an 11.77 ERA. The A's should have lent them Storm Davis and Bob Welch.
   5. Howie Menckel Posted: March 21, 2018 at 05:15 PM (#5641178)
A look at "the luckiest pitching staff in history" would have been interesting.

TFA, not as much.
   6. Batman Posted: March 21, 2018 at 05:37 PM (#5641202)
On a team level, the worst ERA+ for a team with a winning record was the 1991 A's, who were 84-78 with an 84 ERA+. The only starter with a good W-L record was Mike Moore, who really was good. Joe Klink was 10-3 with an 88 ERA+ out of the bullpen, but there isn't anything interesting about the W-L records individually.

An earlier A's team, in 1913, had the worst ERA+ (87) for a .600 team. Part-time starters Bullet Joe Bush (15-6) and Byron Houck (14-6) had good records with shitty ERA+'s.

Last year's Astros and the 2004 Yankees have the worst ERA+ (96) among 100-win teams.

   7. Tim M Posted: March 21, 2018 at 09:24 PM (#5641300)
Christy Mathewson "remains one of the 25 or so best pitchers of all-time"? That seems harsh.

373-188 (T-3 all time in wins, w/ a stellar W%), 2.13 ERA/136 ERA+ (correct me if I'm wrong, I believe it's harder to put up crazy ERA+ in these extreme pitchers' eras). 10th in pitching WAR, black ink all over the place, 8 times led in FIP. Seems to me he's safely top 10 or 12.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 22, 2018 at 09:29 AM (#5641417)
Christy Mathewson "remains one of the 25 or so best pitchers of all-time"? That seems harsh.

373-188 (T-3 all time in wins, w/ a stellar W%), 2.13 ERA/136 ERA+ (correct me if I'm wrong, I believe it's harder to put up crazy ERA+ in these extreme pitchers' eras). 10th in pitching WAR, black ink all over the place, 8 times led in FIP. Seems to me he's safely top 10 or 12.


I think you could argue Mathewson vs. virtually anybody except Big Train.
   9. dlf Posted: March 22, 2018 at 09:54 AM (#5641423)
Christy Mathewson "remains one of the 25 or so best pitchers of all-time"? That seems harsh.

373-188 (T-3 all time in wins, w/ a stellar W%), 2.13 ERA/136 ERA+ (correct me if I'm wrong, I believe it's harder to put up crazy ERA+ in these extreme pitchers' eras). 10th in pitching WAR, black ink all over the place, 8 times led in FIP. Seems to me he's safely top 10 or 12.


I'm happy to say that when players are compared only against their peers and then stacked up by that rating, Matty is a top 10 pitcher, but I timeline more than that. Mathewson's last pitch was more than 100 years ago, thrown against a lily white league with no international scouting, many of the top white players still held in the minors, using a ball that turned to mush, and to paraphrase from his own autobiography, at a time when he had to gear to to pitch in a pinch only a few times a game.

That said, I think he is one of the top ten interesting people in the history of the game. From his WS performances which, in no small part, helped turn the Series from a post season exhibition to the championship we now know, to his service with the troops in WWI, his background is fascinating.
   10. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: March 22, 2018 at 10:43 AM (#5641470)
Mathewson was also a big baseball nerd and invented his own table top game which gives him at least one thing in common with Jack Kerouac.

Who are the "Bash Boys"?

Man, Storm Davis. I remember when we was on the A's there were several profiles of him in the local papers about how much everyone hated him. I felt kind of bad for the guy. There used to be that joke that when he was in San Diego he thought the SD was short for for "Storm Davis". I remember one article had an anonymous player ripping him for running 5 miles a day instead of working on his change which, in retrospect, is the kind of criticism you make of a guy you don't like and decide he can't do anything right.
   11. Batman Posted: March 22, 2018 at 11:02 AM (#5641488)
I don't remember that about Storm Davis. The only thing I remember about him other than his pitching is that he and Glenn Davis (no blood relation) considered themselves brothers after Glenn had problems at home and Storm's family took him in. I must have read about it in SI, but here's a People magazine story about it.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 22, 2018 at 11:08 AM (#5641495)
I'm happy to say that when players are compared only against their peers and then stacked up by that rating, Matty is a top 10 pitcher, but I timeline more than that. Mathewson's last pitch was more than 100 years ago, thrown against a lily white league with no international scouting, many of the top white players still held in the minors, using a ball that turned to mush, and to paraphrase from his own autobiography, at a time when he had to gear to to pitch in a pinch only a few times a game.

Be careful with timelining. If modern pitchers had to throw 300-350 IP a year, the average FB velocity would be in the mid to high 80s, and they would only go max effort a few times a game too. Every guy who's had Tommy John surgery would have been out of baseball.

We don't know how Matty would have done if he was born in 1980, but we also don't know if Kershaw would have survived one season if he was born in 1880.
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 22, 2018 at 11:12 AM (#5641501)
we also don't know if Kershaw would have survived one season if he was born in 1880.
He would have been out of baseball as soon as people saw that rainbow tank top he wears.
   14. cardsfanboy Posted: March 22, 2018 at 07:17 PM (#5641923)
Be careful with timelining. If modern pitchers had to throw 300-350 IP a year, the average FB velocity would be in the mid to high 80s, and they would only go max effort a few times a game too. Every guy who's had Tommy John surgery would have been out of baseball.


That is one of the issues with timelining, you have to really look at the big picture than focus on some small snapshots... but at the same time, the first comment didn't push the endurance issue or anything other than the level of competition allowed to compete. Or even the seriousness that teams took at acquiring talent.

To me, it's a line to straddle as much as you can, you have to make some assumptions about the quality of the competition, but you also have to accept the dominance of a player while facing that level. Even into the 60's pitchers talked about taking a batter or two off in a game, something that modern pitchers don't have the luxury of (especially in the AL) If you timeline strictly, you'll reach a stupid conclusion, that the best player of an era is no better than a bench player of today....

   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 22, 2018 at 08:04 PM (#5641953)
If you timeline strictly, you'll reach a stupid conclusion, that the best player of an era is no better than a bench player of today....


Correct. And that exposes itself, because if talent in a league was increasing that rapidly, no one should be able to play into their late 30's.

Ted Williams hit as well in 1957 as he did in 1941. So, if the league got much better over that period, you have to argue Ted Williams was better at 38 than he was at 22.

When you've got many guys sustaining similar performance for 15+ years, the rate of improvement has to be very, very slow.
   16. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: March 22, 2018 at 09:53 PM (#5641998)
Ted Williams hit as well in 1957 as he did in 1941. So, if the league got much better over that period, you have to argue Ted Williams was better at 38 than he was at 22.


Everyone pushing back against timelineling likes to bring up the example of Williams 1957. the argument would carry more weight if a second example could be provided. Extreme outliers do not disprove a trend. To go in the other direction, 20 of the top 22 WAR pitching seasons came before 1901, Walter Johnson being the exception. Can we not timeline those seasons? Guy Heckler in 1884 went 52-20 with a 171 ERA+ in 670 IP. 15.6 WAR. Was he really twice as good as Clayton Kershaw in 2014, a little bit better, merely as good, not quite as good, or not really in the conversation?
   17. PreservedFish Posted: March 22, 2018 at 10:20 PM (#5642006)
Everyone pushing back against timelineling likes to bring up the example of Williams 1957. the argument would carry more weight if a second example could be provided.


But there are so many! Hank Aaron's obvious. How about Adrian Beltre, today. Or take a lesser player like Mark McLemore, who peaked in his late 30s. Heck, why not Julio Franco? As good a hitter at 45 as he was at 25.

Extreme outliers do not disprove a trend.


Of course they don't, and we all know that, and you know that everyone here knows that. And snapper knows it, which is why his next sentence was "when you've got many guys sustaining similar performance for 15+ years..."

   18. QLE Posted: March 22, 2018 at 10:31 PM (#5642012)
Problem with that argument is that all it demonstrates in turn are the ways in which the way pitchers were used in the 19th century (and especially pre-1893) differs strongly from the way they've been used since, in terms not only of total innings pitched, but also such things as distance from the plate, changes in what types of pitch were legal, and changes to the strike count. Yeah, Kershaw has half the WAR- but he also only pitched 29.5% of the innings that Hecker did. Pointing to this, therefore, is somewhat meaningless- it is generally understood that one can't really compare pre-1893 pitchers with those afterwards, and, therefore, there isn't much relevance in considering them for timelining purposes.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2018 at 08:15 PM (#5642546)
Everyone pushing back against timelineling likes to bring up the example of Williams 1957. the argument would carry more weight if a second example could be provided. Extreme outliers do not disprove a trend. To go in the other direction, 20 of the top 22 WAR pitching seasons came before 1901, Walter Johnson being the exception. Can we not timeline those seasons? Guy Heckler in 1884 went 52-20 with a 171 ERA+ in 670 IP. 15.6 WAR. Was he really twice as good as Clayton Kershaw in 2014, a little bit better, merely as good, not quite as good, or not really in the conversation?


I actually agree with the argument that the quality of play/player skills etc. Has gotten better and that if you time machined Rogers Hornsby into 2018, he would probably not even be a triple A player. But as one thing that Snapper and Preserved have pointed out, is that there are so many good players after 15 years, that any improvement at the major league level on the whole, is an improvement that the best players can take advantage of. Which ultimately means that I can roughly look at the best players of post 1920(and I've said this many times. I consider prior to 1920 to be the barrier between modern baseball and classic baseball (and prior to 1894(?) or so to be a nearly completely different game.) and feel comfortable comparing their war or other numbers and making league adjustments, as being valid comparisons. And if someone wants to push moving that 1920 to say 1931 I wouldn't object too strongly, as the 20's was somewhat of a clear transition era in the style of play.

It isn't a stretch to me, to imagine that the best players of the 20's would have benefited equally or not more from modern training techniques, diets, travel, equipment, usage, etc than a schlub struggling to make it to the majors in 2015
   20. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 23, 2018 at 09:25 PM (#5642569)
“Colby Jack” Coombs was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 1910. The ace of Connie Mack’s titanic Athletics, Coombs compiled a 31–9 record, leading the American League in wins and shutouts (13), and placing among the top-five in virtually every other important pitching category. Coombs was extraordinarily effective (182 ERA+) and simply indomitable: After working more than 350 innings during the regular season, the right-hander took the mound three times in the World Series, pitching three complete games in a span of five days (including the series-clincher in Game Five).

Coombs went from arguably the best pitcher in baseball to inarguably the luckiest pitcher in baseball the following season: Despite posting an ERA (3.53) 11% worse than league average, surrendering more hits (360), and coughing up more earned runs (132) than any other pitcher in the league, Coombs went 28–12 for those same mighty Athletics. Coombs was the beneficiary of a powerhouse offense that led the league in batting, on-base and slugging percentages, home runs, and runs scored (and this offense averaged nearly 7 runs per game for Lucky — er — Colby Jack).


The irony is that the 1910 A's, relative to the rest of the AL, were actually a slightly worse hitting team than they'd been in 1910, with an OPS+ of 112 compared to their previous 113. Their run production skyrocketed from 624 to 861, but that was in great part due to the introduction of the baseball with the cushioned cork center.

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