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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Former Cubs lefthander Dick Ellsworth has died

Dick Ellsworth was a lefthanded pitcher who exhibited great promise for the Cubs in the early 1960s.

In 1963, he made 37 starts, went 22-10 (back when individual pitcher wins really meant something), posted a 2.11 ERA and led the major leagues in ERA+ at 167. Yes, better than Sandy Koufax of the pennant-winning Dodgers. Koufax won the NL MVP and the (then single) Cy Young Award, but there were those who favorably compared Ellsworth to Koufax. After he threw a one-hitter against the Phillies June 1, Edward Prell wrote in the Tribune:

Dick Ellsworth has been a magnificent pitcher all year. Today that elegant word was inadequate when the 23-year-old Cub lefty held the Phillies to one hit — a bunt — in a 2-0 victory. It was the finest performance of his budding career.

Ellsworth finished 19th in NL MVP voting that year, and his 10.2 bWAR season was a close second to Koufax’ 10.7. It remains to this day the second-best bWAR season by any Cubs pitcher (Pete Alexander, 11.9 in 1920 leads the list).

Injuries prevented Ellsworth from fulfilling that promising beginning, and eventually the Cubs traded him away.

Dick Ellsworth passed away Monday in his hometown of Fresno, California, aged 82.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 12, 2022 at 12:01 PM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dick ellsworth, obituaries

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   1. sanny manguillen Posted: October 12, 2022 at 12:57 PM (#6100571)
He's right at the fringe of my baseball memory, so my brain merges him with Dick Selma who came along about five years later. Ellsworth was 11-6, 2.02 at the All Star break in 1963, but wasn't chosen for the team. He ended up throwing 7 innings on Sunday and another 11 on Thursday for the Cubs.

NL All Star staff: Jim O'Toole (starter), Larry Jackson, Ray Culp, Hal Woodeshick, Don Drysdale. Did not pitch: Koufax, Marichal, Spahn.
   2. sanny manguillen Posted: October 12, 2022 at 01:23 PM (#6100574)
The 2022 team keeps filling in gaps:

c- John Stearns
1b - John Wockenfuss
2b - Julio Cruz
3b - Pete Ward
ss - Maury Wills
lf - Tommy Davis
cf - Gerald Williams
rf - Hector Lopez

sp - Joe Horlen
sp- Dick Ellsworth
sp - Ralph Terry
sp - Dave Wickersham
sp - Odalis Perez
rp - Ike Delock
rp - Bob Locker
rp - Jim Corsi
rp - Mark Littell
rp- Jeff Innis

Manager: Maury Wills
   3. Rally Posted: October 12, 2022 at 02:39 PM (#6100592)
Was it injuries that cut short a talented pitcher? Or just one of the greatest fluke years a pitcher has ever had? Looks like he made all his starts in 1965 and 66, though he could have been pitching through injury.

He was a career 100 era+ pitcher. His 2nd best season was a 108. Over a 3 year stretch, his era+ went from 81 to 167 to 99. His babip went from .292 to .210 to .266. Looks like incredible luck to me.
   4. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 12, 2022 at 02:49 PM (#6100593)
FWIW, per BBREF, the Cubs D from 1962-64 went from -26 rField, to +18, to -19.
   5. Howie Menckel Posted: October 12, 2022 at 02:59 PM (#6100598)
from the Ellsworth SABR bio, just before the 1963 season began:

"Ellsworth began tinkering with the slider, but it was pitching coach Fred Martin and veteran teammates Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl who helped the young lefty in perfecting his delivery. As Ellsworth stated a year later, “I was throwing [the slider] wrong, trying to snap my wrist too much and it hurt my arm…[but when cultivated the slider] helped set up my other pitches. In 1962, the batters began laying on my sinking fast ball over the outside of the plate. They knew it was coming and they began leaning over the plate and hitting it to right field. The slider gave me a pitch that kept them honest. I’d push the right-handers back by jamming them on the wrists with the slider.”

1964:

"Dick started the season strong, and a 10-6, 2.87 ERA would result in his selection to the National League’s All-Star squad – the only such honor in his 13-year major-league career. Not long after returning from the Midsummer Classic, Ellsworth’s numbers abruptly turned south. Elbow tendinitis set in, and in his final 15 appearances he posted a 2-8 record accompanied by a 5.36 ERA."

1965:

"Ellsworth’s 1965 campaign was remarkable in the manner by which it so closely resembled the preceding season. For example, a strong start to the season (10-4, 3.23 ERA) was witness to another late-season collapse – once again, the elbow tendinitis being a contributing factor — resulting in a second consecutive campaign of 14 wins."

1966:

"Perhaps Ellsworth should have had a premonition of the fate awaiting him, as a sterling start to the season – a 2.14 ERA through ten appearances spanning 75 2/3rd innings – still resulted in one win against seven losses. Those losses continued to accumulate for both the team and the hurler, and for the second time in five years, the Cubs suffered a 100-loss campaign (a third such season arrived in 2012), while Ellsworth posted his second-ever 20-loss season."



   6. Sweatpants Posted: October 12, 2022 at 03:57 PM (#6100608)
Maybe the ace of the random monster season team. My attempt:

C: 1993 Rick Wilkins
1B: 1970 Jim Hickman
2B: 1930 Johnny Hodapp (I dunno)
3B: 1999 Fernando Tatis
SS: 2001 Rich Aurilia
LF: 2000 Darin Erstad
CF: 1970 Cito Gaston
RF: 2008 Ryan Ludwick
DH: 2009 Jason Kubel (there must be a better choice)

SP: 1963 Dick Ellsworth
SP: 2016 Rick Porcello
SP: 2003 Esteban Loaiza
SP: 1978 Mike Caldwell
SP: 2004 Oliver Perez

Countless options at SP, but I think you pretty much have to include Ellsworth's 1963 if you want to try to make this team. It's probably the best of the seasons listed, although Mike Caldwell's 1978 is similar. Cito Gaston's 1970 is the most random season on the list.
   7. Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful Posted: October 12, 2022 at 04:14 PM (#6100613)
Ellsworth and Culp pitched for the Red Sox back around 68 to 72, I wanna say? They were both past their prime but they were decent while not great, as my memory serves.

Huh, Ellsworth had a 3.03 ERA in 68, for an ERA+ of 105.

Culp's best years were with the Red Sox. They needed 4 more of him, as those teams had decent lineups, but didn't win.
   8. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 12, 2022 at 04:46 PM (#6100618)
DH: 2009 Jason Kubel (there must be a better choice)


How about victor Martinez in 2014?
   9. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 12, 2022 at 05:18 PM (#6100624)
2B: 1930 Johnny Hodapp (I dunno)


Brett Boone 2001
   10. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 12, 2022 at 05:44 PM (#6100628)
re #6--Wes Parker had an equally fluke season in 1970 as Hickman--there was something in the water that year

we had this discussion before, but I believe the difference between Ellsworth's WAR that year is the greatest difference between best and second best season (he had 3.7 in 1961) in MLB history
   11. Itchy Row Posted: October 12, 2022 at 05:49 PM (#6100629)
DH: 2009 Jason Kubel (there must be a better choice)
Jorge Soler, ten years later, has a similar case to Kubel's. Both had 3.5 WAR in their big year. Kubel finished with 4.1 in his career, and Soler is at 4.0 now. Of course, Soler will probably sign with the Dodgers and become a six-time all star.
   12. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 12, 2022 at 05:54 PM (#6100632)
re #6--Wes Parker had an equally fluke season in 1970 as Hickman--there was something in the water that year


Luis Aparicio had the best hitting year of his career, by far, at age 36.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: October 12, 2022 at 07:06 PM (#6100640)
While he was a solid player so it wasn't an outlier in a WAR sense, Davey Johnson's 43 HR in 1973 is always my go to "random monster season" for 2B -- it was nearly 1/3 of his career total HR's.

Soler will probably sign with the Dodgers and become a six-time all star.

Per b-r, Jorge has a $15 M player option which I highly recommend he exercise. He has another option for 2024 at $9 but it goes up fairly substantially if he's a regular in 2023 so I assume the Marlins will limit his time unless he gets off to a very hot start.
   14. bookbook Posted: October 12, 2022 at 08:32 PM (#6100651)
CF Franklin Gutierrez 2009 (6.6 of 18 career WAR)
   15. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 12, 2022 at 08:45 PM (#6100657)
Rick Cerone had more than half his career WAR in 1980 with the Yankees (4.2--8.0) Bill James said he holds the MLB record for "longest career milked out of one good season"
   16. Rally Posted: October 12, 2022 at 08:55 PM (#6100661)
I like Johnson at 2B. Boone was out of nowhere, but he was 90% as good in 2003.
   17. AndrewJ Posted: October 13, 2022 at 06:42 AM (#6100692)
re #6--Wes Parker had an equally fluke season in 1970 as Hickman--there was something in the water that year


Luis Aparicio had the best hitting year of his career, by far, at age 36.


Tony Taylor had his one great offensive season in 1970, as well. One of the SABR annuals (either The National Pastime or the Baseball Research Journal) had a feature on all the career seasons that occurred that year…
   18. AndrewJ Posted: October 13, 2022 at 06:42 AM (#6100693)
Wes Parker’s fluke 1970 season probably had something to do with dating Greg Brady’s teacher…
   19. Rally Posted: October 13, 2022 at 08:18 AM (#6100695)
Bert Campaneris 1970. Not even his best year by WAR, and he had several others in the same range by overall value. But Campy hitting 22 homers defies explanation. He never even hit double digits in any other year.
   20. SandyRiver Posted: October 13, 2022 at 10:08 AM (#6100704)
I agree at Gason 1970 deserves the CF spot, but Brady Anderson - with a much better career - had a 1996 season that pops off the page. Not just the 50 hr, but a .637 slg that was .160 higher than his 2nd best season.
   21. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: October 13, 2022 at 10:13 AM (#6100705)
John Tudor: 1986.

He had 10 shutouts in his 36 starts that year. In the rest of his career, he had 6 shutouts in 227 starts.
   22. The Duke Posted: October 13, 2022 at 01:49 PM (#6100728)
Brady Anderson, mostly for the HR total, deserves a mention but he did have a couple other good seasons. Fernando Tatis might fit. The cubs have a whole team: Jerome Walton, mark Prior, Wilkins, lahair. In some ways Hack Wilson

Fidrych and McClain are two good ones for the staff
   23. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: October 13, 2022 at 01:58 PM (#6100729)
Joe Mays in 2001. Over 2/3 of his war in one season.
   24. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 13, 2022 at 02:50 PM (#6100735)
Fidrych and McClain are two good ones for the staff

McLain had several good seasons--won the CYA the year after 30 wins--he had 114 lifetime MLB wins by age 25 and 17 after that
   25. Cris E Posted: October 13, 2022 at 02:56 PM (#6100738)
Another Twin: Allan Anderson in 1988, won the ERA title and piled up 5.2 of his career 8.5 WAR.
   26. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 13, 2022 at 03:24 PM (#6100744)
another fluke that must be mentioned is the first 2 months of Jeff Francouer whenever he joined a new team
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: October 13, 2022 at 03:35 PM (#6100745)
another fluke that must be mentioned is the first 2 months of Jeff Francouer whenever he joined a new team


Ken Reitz's Aprils, every April.
   28. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 13, 2022 at 03:47 PM (#6100749)
Ken Reitz's Aprils, every April.

lifetime 314/351/424 in his Aprils--never hit higher than .259 in any other month lifetime and never slugged higher than .366
   29. The Duke Posted: October 13, 2022 at 04:02 PM (#6100758)
I can still hear Mike Shannon "there's another great play by the ol' Zamboni machine".

Reitz would lead the league every year for a month and then completely collapse
   30. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 13, 2022 at 04:43 PM (#6100770)
another fluke that must be mentioned is the first 2 months of Jeff Francouer whenever he joined a new team

if you combine his first 45 games with Atlanta, Mets and KC, in 507PAs he slashed 317/332/718, compared to his lifetime 261/303/416
   31. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: October 13, 2022 at 06:07 PM (#6100788)
another fluke that must be mentioned is the first 2 months of Jeff Francouer whenever he joined a new team

Scott Servais; joined the Cubs in mid-1995 and put up an OPS+ of 145 52 games. Career OPS+ was 79. (Added bonus: he came to the Cubs in a trade for Rick Wilkins, already listed above as a great fluker. Also in that trade was Luis Gonzalez, and yeah steroids talk and all - still an out of nowhere season for Gonzolez.

Some oldies but goodies:

Earl Webb: 67 doubles in 1931- still the all-time single season record. He had just four years over 100 games played. He was on the bench two years after making the record books.The guy barely even played in the big leagues until he was 29 years old.

Owen Wilson: 36 triples in 1912, also still the record. He never had more than 14 in any other season.
   32. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 13, 2022 at 06:45 PM (#6100794)
and Maris never hit more than 39 except for 61 in 61
   33. Sweatpants Posted: October 13, 2022 at 09:15 PM (#6100814)
we had this discussion before, but I believe the difference between Ellsworth's WAR that year is the greatest difference between best and second best season (he had 3.7 in 1961) in MLB history
This might be true if you include a qualifier for minimum amount of games played or something. Bill James of the 1914 Braves had 7.8 pitching WAR that year, which accounted for over half of his career MLB IP. His next-best total was 0.3. I don't know if that's the record, but he has Ellsworth beaten.
   34. AndrewJ Posted: October 13, 2022 at 09:57 PM (#6100818)
Owen Wilson: 36 triples in 1912, also still the record. He never had more than 14 in any other season.

And I believe the second-most triples in a season at ANY level of American professional baseball is still only 26. Wilson Bob Beamon’d the three-bagger record…
   35. Howie Menckel Posted: October 13, 2022 at 11:27 PM (#6100824)
MLB only

Rank Player (age that year) Triples Year
1. Owen Wilson (28) 36 1912
2. Dave Orr (26) 31 1886
Henry Reitz (27) 31 1894
4. Perry Werden (31) 29 1893
5. Harry Davis (23) 28 1897
Sam Thompson+ (34) 28 1894
7. George Davis+ (22) 27 1893
Jimmy Williams (22) 27 1899
9. Sam Crawford+ (34) 26 1914
Kiki Cuyler+ (26) 26 1925
Shoeless Joe Jackson (24) 26 1912

since 1960:


22. Curtis Granderson (26) 23 2007

53. Lance Johnson (32) 21 1996

53. Willie Wilson (29) 21 1985

76. George Brett+ (26) 20 1979
76. Jimmy Rollins (28) 20 2007

since 2008:

114. Jose Reyes (25) 19 2008

   36. sanny manguillen Posted: October 13, 2022 at 11:34 PM (#6100825)
I think Cristian Guzman had 20 triples in 2000.

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