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Rabbit's Foot Seasons

August 3, 2017
 2017-33

Rabbit’s Foot Seasons

         So let’s start with Bob Caruthers in 1889. Bob Caruthers and Dave Foutz, as many of you will know, were pitcher/outfielders with the St. Louis Browns of the American Association, the team which later became the St. Louis Cardinals.   Both Caruthers and Foutz were outstanding hitters as well as outstanding pitchers, both hitting around .350. 

              By 1889 Caruthers and Foutz were both pitching for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, the team later known as the Dodgers, or maybe they had become the Dodgers by 1889, I have no idea.  In 1889 Caruthers was only a pitcher, playing just a few innings at other positions, but pitching 445 innings.  He also he hit just .250, although he was still one of the better hitting pitchers of the year because he took an enormous number of walks.  

              Caruthers in 1889 had a 3.13 ERA, better than the league ERA or 3.84, but pitching in a park with a park factor of .86, not all that much better than the league average.    Among the six pitchers in the league who pitched 420 or more innings, Caruthers missed by .01 of having the worst ERA.   Still, Caruthers finished 40-11, by far the league’s best won-lost record.   He was lucky. 

              How lucky?   The Won-Lost record he deserved, probably, was 29-21.   He beat that by 11 wins and 10 losses.   I score his "luck" for the season at +20.4—20.4 half-games—and this would make him, in a raw calculation, the luckiest pitcher of all time.

              For fairly obvious reasons, he is not a good candidate to be described as the luckiest pitcher of all time. 

              1)  19th century baseball was not really major league baseball,

              2)  The American Association was an inferior league, even in the 19th century,

              3)  Caruthers was a very good hitter, and about 20% of the discrepancy between his deserved and actual won-lost records is due not to luck, but to his excellence with the bat, and

              4)  Of course pitchers who pitch 445 innings and have 50+ decisions are going to have larger discrepancies between actual and projected records than modern pitchers who rarely pitch half as much.  

              So then, who was the luckiest pitcher of all time?

              Bob Welch, 1990.  

              Bob Welch in 1990 "won" 27 games, the most wins of any major league pitcher in the last 40 years, while losing only 6.    He wasn’t actually quite that good.   Actually, he wasn’t anywhere near that good.   The won-lost record he deserved, as best I can figure it, was 14-13.   He beat that by 13 wins and 7 losses, which makes him +20.   Other than Caruthers, he is the only pitcher in history who was +20.

              Third on the list is another Oakland A, Catfish Hunter in 1973; he was 21-5 when he probably should have been about 13-16.    Let’s do this by teams, alphabetically by city name, starting in the NL West.   Arizona:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Ian

Kennedy

2011

21

4

.840

17

9

8.3

Rubby

de la Rosa

2015

14

9

.609

10

12

7.4

 

              The luckiest pitcher/season in the history of the Arizona Diamondbacks was by Ian Kennedy in 2011.   Kennedy went 21-4.   He pitched extremely well, but probably deserved a won-lost record of 17-9, rather than 21-4.   SINCE 2011, the luckiest D’Back was Rubby de la Rosa in 2015, going 14-9 when he should have been about 10-12.    Colorado Rockies:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Shawn

Estes

2004

15

8

.652

10

13

10.1

Livan

Hernandez

2008

13

11

.542

8

13

6.6

Jorge

de la Rosa

2013

16

6

.727

12

8

6.5

 

              The luckiest pitcher in the history of the Colorado Rockies was Shawn Estes in 2004, going 15-8 with a deserved record of 10-13.   SINCE 2004, their luckiest pitcher was Livan Hernandez in 2008, and since 2008, their luckiest pitcher has been Jorge de la Rosa in 2013, going 16-6 with a deserved record of 12-8.    Dodgers:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Bob

Caruthers

1889

40

11

.784

29

21

20.4

Tom

Lovett

1890

30

11

.732

22

20

16.4

Don

Newcombe

1956

27

7

.794

18

13

14.7

Johnny

Podres

1961

18

5

.783

11

10

11.2

Don

Drysdale

1962

25

9

.735

21

15

10.5

Don

Drysdale

1965

23

12

.657

18

17

10.0

Ramon

Martinez

1995

17

7

.708

12

12

9.9

Hideo

Nomo

2002

16

6

.727

14

12

8.6

Jose

Lima

2004

13

5

.722

10

10

8.0

Vicente

Padilla

2009

12

6

.667

8

9

7.6

Dan

Haren

2014

13

11

.542

9

13

6.4

Scott

Kazmir

2016

10

6

.625

7

9

6.0

 

              Vicente Padilla in 2009 was actually 4-0 with the Dodgers; he was 8-6 before he was traded to the Dodgers.

              The luckiest Dodger ever was Bob Caruthers in 1889; since 1889, Tom Lovett in 1890.   Since 1890, the luckiest Dodger pitcher was Don Newcombe in 1956.   Of course, we should point out that Newcombe and Drysdale made some of their own luck by being excellent hitters, particularly Drysdale in 1965.    Newcombe in ’56 hit just .234, and Drysdale in ’62 hit .198 with no homers, but Drysdale in ’65 had one of the best seasons any pitcher has ever had with the bat, hitting .300 with 7 homers.   We should also point out that, in the following seasons, no pitcher on these charts (so far) has been able to replicate his won-lost performance.   Caruthers, after going 40-11 in 1889, was 23-11 in 1890.  Lovett, after going 30-11 in 1890, was 23-19 the next season—about the record he deserved in 1890.   Newcombe, after going 27-7 to win the first Cy Young Award, was 11-12 the next season.   Podres, after going 18-5 in 1961, was 15-13 the next season.  Drysdale was 19-17 after going 25-9, and 13-16 after going 23-12.   Ramon Martinez, after going 17-7 in 1995, was 15-6 the next year, the closest any Dodger has come to sustaining his good luck.  Hideo Nomo followed his 16-6 record with 16-13.    Jose Lima followed 13-5 with 5-16.    Vicente Padilla followed 12-6 with 6-5.   Danny the Rabbit followed 13-11 with 11-9.    San Diego:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Gaylord

Perry

1978

21

6

.778

16

13

12.0

Aaron

Harang

2011

14

7

.667

9

11

8.1

Jason

Marquis

2013

9

5

.643

5

9

7.9

James

Shields

2015

13

7

.650

12

12

6.8

 

And the Giants:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Tim

Keefe

1886

42

20

.677

33

28

16.9

Joe

McGinnity

1906

27

12

.692

20

18

13.3

Juan

Marichal

1968

26

9

.743

20

17

13.3

John

Burkett

1993

22

7

.759

14

12

13.0

Barry

Zito

2012

15

8

.652

9

13

11.0

Tim

Lincecum

2014

12

9

.571

7

11

7.1

 

Moving now to the NL Central, the Cubs:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Larry

Corcoran

1880

43

14

.754

36

24

17.0

John

Clarkson

1885

53

16

.768

45

25

16.7

Bill

Hutchison

1891

44

19

.698

38

25

12.8

Claude

Hendrix

1918

20

7

.741

13

13

12.4

Guy

Bush

1931

16

8

.667

8

12

11.9

Kevin

Tapani

1998

19

9

.679

12

13

11.9

Jon

Lieber

2001

20

6

.769

15

12

10.8

Ted

Lilly

2008

17

9

.654

13

11

5.3

Jason

Hammel

2016

15

10

.600

10

10

5.2

 

The Cincinnati Reds:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Will

White

1884

34

18

.654

27

24

13.6

Bob

Purkey

1962

23

5

.821

20

13

11.7

Tom

Browning

1988

18

5

.783

15

14

11.7

Paul

Wilson

2004

11

6

.647

10

11

6.0

Mike

Leake

2013

14

7

.667

12

11

5.9

Alfredo

Simon

2014

15

10

.600

12

12

5.0

 

              Let’s hang up on the Bob Purkey season for a moment.    I was a 12-year-old baseball fan in 1962, and that Cy Young race helped to shape my thinking about the game.   If you’ll forgive me for shaving a few rough edges off of the facts to illustrate my point, Don Drysdale went 25-9 that season (.735), Jack Sanford went 24-7 (.774) and Bob Purkey went 23-5 (.821).   In the Cy Young voting, the top three were Drysdale, Sanford, and Bob Purkey.

              What does that mean?  What it meant to me as a 12-year-old was that one win counts a little bit more than two losses.   Thinking about the game over the years, I have found this to be generally true; in the minds of award voters, one win counts about as much as two losses.   I used that principle in yesterday’s article; I still use it often, because it still describes how people think about won-lost records.  

              In retrospect, the 1962 Cy Young race was a race between three exceptionally lucky pitchers.   Drysdale and Purkey have shown up on these charts.   Jack Sanford didn’t, but he was actually luckier than either Drysdale or Purkey.     They were all good pitchers, but none of them were anywhere near as good as their won-lost records:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Jack

Sanford

1962

24

7

.774

17

13

13.0

Bob

Purkey

1962

23

5

.821

20

13

11.7

Don

Drysdale

1962

25

9

.735

21

15

10.5

 

              So who actually deserved the Cy Young Award in 1962?   Well, Drysdale is not a BAD selection, but probably the best answer would have been Bob Gibson.   Gibson, just emerging as a star pitcher in 1962, had a won-lost record of just 15-13—but a deserved record of 18-9 (which was his actual won-lost record in 1963.)  Gibson also had a much better year with the bat than Drysdale did, hitting .263 with 2 homers.    But, of course, he wasn’t mentioned in the Cy Young voting, because (1) there is no way a 15-13 pitcher was going to be considered for the Cy Young Award in that era, and (2) he was not a recognized star at that time.   Of course, I didn’t understand any of this stuff in 1962, either.   None of us did.

              OK, Milwaukee Brewers:

             

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Braden

Looper

2009

14

7

.667

8

15

13.7

Zack

Greinke

2011

16

6

.727

11

9

8.7

Wily

Peralta

2014

17

11

.607

11

12

6.6

 

              Braden Looper went 14-7 in a season when he probably should have gone 8-15.    But after that season the Brewers did not pick up Looper’s option for 2010; he became a free agent, attracted no interest, and never threw a pitch in the majors after that season.    That’s the difference between 1962 and 2009.   

              Greinke’s kind of a fluke on the list, in that he really has been a great pitcher most of his career; he just wasn’t actually a great pitcher that year.   The Pirates:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Nick

Maddox

1908

23

8

.742

14

16

17.2

Steve

Blass

1969

16

10

.615

9

15

11.4

John

Smiley

1991

20

8

.714

13

10

9.0

James

McDonald

2012

12

8

.600

9

11

6.7

 

              It’s always a little confusing, because guys don’t pitch at the same level every year.   Steve Blass was a tremendous pitcher in ’68 and ’72, but in ’69 he had a 4.46 ERA against a league norm of 3.59, had a bad strikeout/walk ratio and gave up a career-high 21 bombs, but the Gods were with him, so he still got his Ws.    And the Cardinals:

 

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Dave

Foutz

1885

33

14

.702

24

22

17.1

Bob

Forsch

1977

20

7

.741

12

13

13.4

Brett

Tomko

2003

13

9

.591

9

14

9.1

Lance

Lynn

2012

18

7

.720

12

9

8.5

Michael

Wacha

2015

17

7

.708

11

10

8.3

Adam

Wainwright

2016

13

9

.591

11

12

5.6

 

              Foutz was NOT a great hitter in 1885, so that’s really got nothing to do with it.   Wainwright is still winning this season, so. . . .well, we’ll see.  A lot of times the #2 name on the list is the "real" name; the top guy was a 19th century guy, but the REALLY lucky pitcher was Purkey or Forsch or somebody.   Brett Tomko’s one season with the Cardinals saw him post the best won-lost record of his career (above) despite a 5.28 ERA. 

              Moving on to the NL West, the Braves:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Fred

Klobedanz

1897

26

7

.788

18

17

17.3

Russ

Ortiz

2003

21

7

.750

13

12

12.7

Derek

Lowe

2009

15

10

.600

10

13

7.8

Tim

Hudson

2012

16

7

.696

12

9

6.7

 

              Klobedanz hit .324 with 20 RBI in 1897, and Ortiz made some of his own luck in 2003, hitting .257 with 2 homers and 10 RBI.   That actually doesn’t have that much to do with it.   A pitcher whose record is six games better than it ought to be; that’s 60 runs.   Ortiz wasn’t 60 runs better as a hitter than an average National League pitcher/hitter.   More like six runs.   It’s just. . . I have to worry about it because I know some of you will worry about it.   The Marlins:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Ryan

Dempster

2001

15

12

.556

11

14

5.4

Ricky

Nolasco

2010

14

9

.609

9

9

5.0

 

Mets:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

David

Cone

1988

20

3

.870

16

10

11.2

Dillon

Gee

2011

13

6

.684

8

11

10.3

R.A.

Dickey

2012

20

6

.769

17

10

7.1

 

Phillies:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Larry

Christenson

1977

19

6

.760

12

13

14.7

Eric

Milton

2004

14

6

.700

11

13

9.8

Joe

Blanton

2010

9

6

.600

9

12

6.1

Cole

Hamels

2012

17

6

.739

15

10

5.4

 

And the Expos/Nationals:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Bryn

Smith

1985

18

5

.783

14

11

10.1

Ken

Hill

1994

16

5

.762

11

7

7.0

Stephen

Strasburg

2016

15

4

.789

11

6

6.6

 

              I realize that I am sort of implicitly making a pro-won-and-lost argument here, in that many of these discrepancies—which are the largest discrepancies in the history of the team—are not that remarkable.   Bryn Smith went 18-5 when he deserved to go 14-11—that’s the best you’ve got?   That’s the limit of good luck?   Doesn’t that show that the Won-Lost records ARE a pretty good indicator of how the pitcher has pitched, with the exception of an extreme case like Larry Christenson or Braden Looper? 

              I’m not making that argument; I’m just noting that it is implicit in the data.    Moving on now to the American League West, the luckiest pitcher in the history of the Angels was Clyde Wright in 1972:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Clyde

Wright

1972

18

11

.621

12

17

12.3

Jered

Weaver

2012

20

5

.800

13

9

10.3

Matt

Shoemaker

2014

16

4

.800

9

7

9.1

 

              The Astros have a one-pitcher list, since their luckiest pitcher ever was recent:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Collin

McHugh

2015

19

7

.731

13

11

10.4

 

              The Mariners, I’m going to vary the form to make a point you will see immediately:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Paul

Abbott

2001

17

4

.810

10

10

13.1

Jamie

Moyer

2001

20

6

.769

14

10

9.8

Jamie

Moyer

1997

17

5

.773

13

9

7.8

Jamie

Moyer

2003

21

7

.750

16

9

7.6

Felix

Hernandez

2015

18

9

.667

13

11

6.4

 

              Jamie Moyer had the second-, third-, and fourth-luckiest seasons in the history of the Mariners.   There is an argument that goes "If a pitcher does something year after year after year, doesn’t that prove that it isn’t luck?" 

              Well. . .no.   Maybe; I don’t know.   It’s not year after year after year; it’s three years in a seven-year span.   The Mariners had a loaded offense in those days, with Griffey and A-Rod and Olerud and Ichiro and Buhner and Edgar and Mike Cameron.    Moyer was a good pitcher, pitching for a tremendous team.   If pitchers in general were able to sustain luck, that would prove that it wasn’t luck.   If one pitcher is sort-of able to sustain good luck, I’m not sure that proves anything.  

              The Philadelphia-Kansas City-Oakland Athletics/A’s; the answers are all in Oakland:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Bob

Welch

1990

27

6

.818

14

13

20.0

Tim

Hudson

2000

20

6

.769

14

10

10.6

Barry

Zito

2002

23

5

.821

19

8

7.7

Mark

Mulder

2004

17

8

.680

14

12

7.3

Bartolo

Colon

2013

18

6

.750

14

8

6.0

 

              The Rangers have a one-pitcher list, as all of the Texas teams do:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Colby

Lewis

2015

17

9

.654

11

13

9.0

             

              While the White Sox have a long list of .500 pitchers who got lucky:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Frank

Owen

1906

22

13

.629

15

18

12.1

Vern

Kennedy

1936

21

9

.700

16

15

11.2

Early

Wynn

1959

22

10

.688

16

14

10.0

Jon

Garland

2006

18

7

.720

13

12

9.4

Gavin

Floyd

2008

17

8

.680

13

12

8.1

Freddy

Garcia

2010

12

6

.667

9

10

6.6

 

              Bob Feller was a great pitcher until 1947.   By 1951 he was just another pitcher, but he got really lucky and added a 20-win season.  

 

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Bob

Feller

1951

22

8

.733

15

14

12.7

Cal

McLish

1959

19

8

.704

13

14

12.2

Cliff

Lee

2005

18

5

.783

13

11

10.8

Cliff

Lee

2008

22

3

.880

19

7

7.1

David

Huff

2009

11

8

.579

6

9

6.2

Josh

Tomlin

2011

12

7

.632

10

10

5.0

 

              Cliff Lee, after a couple of fortunate seasons with the Indians, ended his career with six straight unlucky seasons:  -6.4 (luck), -4.7, -2.5, -8.6, -2.3 and -0.4 from 2009 to 2014.     Denny McLain in 1968 deserved to win "only" 25 games, but got lucky:

 

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Wild Bill

Donovan

1907

25

4

.862

17

13

17.4

Hooks

Dauss

1919

21

9

.700

13

16

15.3

Denny

McLain

1968

31

6

.838

25

13

12.7

Milt

Wilcox

1984

17

8

.680

11

11

9.8

Bill

Gullickson

1991

20

9

.690

14

12

9.2

Mike

Moore

1993

13

9

.591

10

15

8.9

Max

Scherzer

2013

21

3

.875

18

7

7.7

Max

Scherzer

2014

18

5

.783

16

10

6.6

Alfredo

Simon

2015

13

12

.520

8

14

6.4

 

              The Kansas City Royals:

 

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Paul

Splittorff

1973

20

11

.645

15

14

8.1

Paul

Splittorff

1977

16

6

.727

14

12

7.9

Dennis

Leonard

1980

20

11

.645

17

15

7.1

Larry

Gura

1984

12

9

.571

8

12

7.1

Tom

Gordon

1989

17

9

.654

11

8

5.6

Jeremy

Guthrie

2015

8

8

.500

6

11

5.5

 

              Paul Splittorff won 20 games in 1973 with a strikeout/walk ratio of 110 to 78.    I’d like to see somebody do that now.   Paul Splittorff died a few years ago, after years as the Royals’ TV color analyst.   Off the air, Splittorff was a really funny guy, with a biting sense of humor.   On the air he was a competent analyst but as dull as dandelions.  He just would not cut loose on the air, because he was afraid of a Dennis Eckersley/David Price type moment.   Minnesota Twins: 

 

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Mudcat

Grant

1965

21

7

.750

16

15

13.1

Glen

Perkins

2008

12

4

.750

8

10

10.1

Kevin

Slowey

2010

13

6

.684

9

9

7.6

Hector

Santiago

2016

13

10

.565

10

12

5.1

 

              The ’65 Twins had a hellacious offense, leading the league in Runs Scored by almost a hundred.   The Twins, of course, were the Senators until 1961.   Monte Weaver went 22-10 with the Senators in 1932, should have been 14-13, but he wasn’t as lucky as Mudcat in ’65, so no Senators make the list, either with the Twins or the Rangers. 

              Moving on now to the American League East. . . .the Orioles are like the Twins, in that they used to be somebody else, but the somebody else doesn’t count here because nobody was lucky to pitch for the St. Louis Browns:

 

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Mike

Cuellar

1970

24

8

.750

17

17

15.7

Steve

Stone

1980

25

7

.781

16

12

13.8

Dennis

Martinez

1981

14

5

.737

10

10

9.3

Wei-Yin

Chen

2014

16

6

.727

11

10

9.2

Chris

Tillman

2016

16

6

.727

11

9

7.9

 

              The luckiest Browns pitcher ever was General Crowder, 1928, 21-5 when he should have been 16-12.     The Boston Red Sox:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Joe

Wood

1912

34

5

.872

27

11

12.8

Boo

Ferriss

1946

25

6

.806

19

13

12.4

Jack

Kramer

1948

18

5

.783

12

11

12.1

Ellis

Kinder

1949

23

6

.793

18

11

10.6

Rick

Porcello

2016

22

4

.846

18

9

9.1

 

              Gaylord Perry in 1972 had about the same "deserved" record as Joe Wood in 1912, but whereas Wood added Luck to his very impressive actual accomplishments, Gaylord went the other way.    Can you imagine if that was reversed, and Gaylord had gone 34-5 in 1972?   That would have changed history.   Gaylord’s spitball, rather than being a kind of impish misbehavior, would have become a full-fledged scandal. 

              The world is getting even with Rick Porcello this year.   Porcello DID deserve the Cy Young Award last year; he was lucky, but if you take the luck out of it, he was still the best pitcher in the league, or as good as anyone.  A number of pitchers have been very lucky to pitch for the Yankees: 

 

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Lefty

Gomez

1932

24

7

.774

16

15

16.5

Whitey

Ford

1961

25

4

.862

19

13

15.5

Whitey

Ford

1963

24

7

.774

18

12

11.3

Ron

Guidry

1985

22

6

.786

17

12

11.2

Andy

Pettitte

2003

21

8

.724

13

11

11.2

Nathan

Eovaldi

2015

14

3

.824

10

8

9.8

             

              The Rays have a one-man list:

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Matt

Moore

2013

17

4

.810

10

8

10.8

 

              And the Blue Jays to complete the list. 

First

Last

Year

W

L

WPct

Des Wins

Des Loss

Luck

Jack

Morris

1992

21

6

.778

14

13

14.4

Drew

Hutchison

2015

13

5

.722

6

12

13.4

J.A.

Happ

2016

20

4

.833

15

8

9.1

 

              Tomorrow I’ll list the UN-luckiest pitchers in a season. . .appreciate your staying with me. 

 
 

COMMENTS (22 Comments, most recent shown first)

KaiserD2
To LesLein:

in the 21st century the quality of teams has really flattened out, and that probably means that more games are within the margin that is controlled by luck.

David K
8:18 AM Aug 7th
 
LesLein
A disproportionate number of lucky seasons are from the 21st century. Does expansion account for all of this?
6:35 PM Aug 6th
 
KaiserD2
It seems to me that Chuck didn’t take his interesting calculation about Lemon quite far enough. He found that the Indians scored .32 more runs per game with Lemon on the mound than with an average pitcher. Let’s pull a year out of the hat and see what that tells us.
1953: Lemon pitches 287 innings. (Rounding off). Nearly 32 games worth of innings. In an average 32 games the Indians would score 160 runs and give up 130, for a Pythagorean percentage of .593 (very close to their actual one.)
Now according to Chuck’s calculations, had Lemon been an average hitter, the Indians would have scored 10 fewer runs in those 32 games, or 150 runs, which would have reduced the Pythagorean pct to ,565. (I’m using the 1.82 exponent.) That’s .028 less, multiplied by 32 games, makes an improvement of 1 game.
Now Lemon was one of the pitchers featured in my presentation, in which I compared him to Billy Pierce who was clearly superior to Lemon as a pitcher but isn’t in the Hall of Fame. I computed for that presentation the expected winning percentages of Lemon’s teams with average pitching. That was .551 and his actual percentage was .618. which is .067 better than the team. But only about .028 of that, it seems, can be attributed to Lemon’s hitting. That raises the unspoken question in this discussion—whether certain people really can pitch just well enough to win. I doubt it very much, but it would take a lot of work to find out.

In any case it doesn’t seem that Lemon’s hitting was the main reason he exceeded expectations in W-L.

8:24 AM Aug 6th
 
MarisFan61
Bill: Thanks for the reply about Drysdale and Gibson in 1962.

Re "(a) It is a mistake to allow the conclusions of previous research to constrain the conclusions we would reach today":
I take it that this probably means that if we looked at "Win-and-Loss Shares," it would show Gibson with a much more impressive record, similar to what is shown by their "Deserved" W-L records. (I don't mean that the win/loss share numbers would be the same as those.)
.......as opposed to what is shown by the simple old Win Shares.
1:42 AM Aug 6th
 
BobGill
Oops! I see Dave Fleming's new article just answered my last question. Never mind.
8:59 PM Aug 5th
 
BobGill
What is a Dennis Eckersley/David Price moment? I must've missed this, or else I've completely forgotten it.
12:45 PM Aug 5th
 
chuck
Ok, I'm slow. It appears that to get deserved decisions, pitcher innings are perhaps divided by the league's average ratio of starter innings per decision.
11:29 AM Aug 5th
 
vandorn
Larry Gura's inclusion on the Royals list isn't too surprising. He went 12-9 in 1984, making the list, but got released in April 1985 after three relief appearances, which surprised a lot of people. I know on WGN the Cubs announcers were openly talking about when he would clear waivers and the Cubs could sign him. But he only made four bad starts for them before getting sent down to Iowa. And even though the entire Cubs rotation went on the DL he never came back before getting released in August. So the metric knew he was done before a lot of baseball people did.
10:40 AM Aug 5th
 
bjames
On the issue of Drysdale and Gibson, 1962. . .
(a) It is a mistake to allow the conclusions of previous research to constrain the conclusions we would reach today,
(b) Let me do a little naïve analysis to illustrate my point. Gibson and Drysdale have almost the same ERAs in 1962, 2.83 and 2.85. But Drysdale was working in a park with a park factor of 82; Gibson, a park factor of 115. The league ERA was 3.94. If we adjust that for the parks, Drysdale drops to about 3.60; Gibson goes to about 4.20. So Drysdale’s ERA is about 77 points better than league; Gibson’s is 135 points better.
Yes, Drysdale pitched more innings, but if you multiply the innings times the per-inning advantage, Drysdale is 314 * .77, or 242; Gibson is 234 * 1.35, or 269. So Gibson’s ERA advantage, park advantage, is proportionately larger than Drysdale’s advantage in innings pitched.

10:27 AM Aug 5th
 
KaiserD2
Delighted to note that many of Bill's examples show up in my forthcoming book, led by Don Newcombe 1956 (I got into trouble on the SABR List a year or two ago by point this out--no one wanted to hear it.) In fact, Newcombe never had a really outstanding pitching year with the Dodgers after 1949 when he was a rookie. Like so many hard throwing rookies, he evidently hurt his arm.

On that very interesting season of 1962, however, I have a somewhat different take. My numbers show Ernie Broglio as the best NL pitcher that year with 4.9 WAA followed by Gibson at 4.3 (quite a one-two punch for the Cardinal pitching staff!) Broglio threw 222 innings, Gibson 234. He went only 12-9. Next I have Bob Purkey, whom Bill rated highly, with 3.9. Then Bob Friend of the Pirates with 3.7 (18-14 record) , Spahn with 3.5 (also 18-14, a great year at that stage of his career--and Turk Farrell of Houston with 3.5 (10-20 for the 8th-place Astros.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, Bill, but I still don't think you've told us exactly where your expected W-L comes from. But in any event we are agreeing on many points.


10:25 AM Aug 5th
 
MattGoodrich
In Bob Welch's big season, I remember thinking he wasn't the best pitcher in the league because he wasn't even the best pitcher on his own team. Stewart was their 'ace', getting the first starts in the postseason.
4:22 AM Aug 5th
 
W.T.Mons10
Funny, in 1984 Milt Wilcox ended six straight seasons of records like 12-10 by going 17-8, but it turns out his record should have been 11-11.
8:03 PM Aug 4th
 
chuck
Bill (or please, someone else can chime in here), how are the number of “deserved decisions” figured in your system, say for a given season? I may have overlooked that in one of the articles so far, or perhaps you’re going to flesh that out later.

For example, the 1989 Storm Davis season you cited (19-7) had a deserved record of 8-11. Why does Davis get 19 decisions instead of the actual 26? Another is Jason Hammel last year: 15-10 actual, vs. 10-10 deserved.

For many of the career records you gave, the total actual and deserved decisions are pretty close, but in a few cases they differ by 10 to 20. It looks like this is something that has a way of evening out for most pitchers over a long career, even if for one season the decisions can be different by 5 or 7.
5:50 PM Aug 4th
 
hotstatrat
shthar: Anyone on more than one teams list?

Barry Zito made both S.F. Bay lists.
4:36 PM Aug 4th
 
shthar
Two things:

Anyone on more than one teams list?

How many of these seasons were in the final contract year? Guys playing after 1978 or whenever.
2:57 PM Aug 4th
 
MarisFan61
Bill -- I wonder if on some different day or moment, you wouldn't say Gibson probably would have been the best choice for N.L. Cy Young in '62. Yes, he had the best E.R.A.+ and some other things, but....

First of all there's the enormous difference in 'innings pitched' -- Gibson had far fewer than those other 3, similarly in games and starts.

And, please allow me to cite Win Shares. :-)

Drysdale 24
Purkey 26
Gibson 21
(Sanford, who I would agree wasn't really among that group: just 11)

BTW, Gibson did have more shutouts (5, tied for league lead with B. Friend). Those other three were buried down the list, with 2 each.
2:46 PM Aug 4th
 
bjames
I shouldn't have said "tomorrow"; I'll plan to post the next installment on Monday.

Lamar Hoyt had a deserved record of 17-12, making him +9. He is not on the list because Jon Garland was +9.4. I'll have an article later in the series about Cy Young Awards.
9:17 AM Aug 4th
 
TJNawrocki
A minor point: Livan Hernandez made only eight starts for the Rockies in 2008, going 3-3. He spent most of that season in Minnesota, going 10-8 before the Twins waived him in August.
9:17 AM Aug 4th
 
337
Huh. I read "Guidry" too quickly, assumed it had to be his big season....
9:13 AM Aug 4th
 
BobGill
Interesting to see how many huge seasons don't make the list. Guidry's 25-3, Clemens' and Gooden's 24-4, all of Koufax's big ones, two of Marichal's, Grove's 31-4, W. Johnson's 36-7, and many more. But I was quite surprised not to see Lamar Hoyt's 24-10 season on the list for the White Sox.
8:51 AM Aug 4th
 
wovenstrap
This might be nonsense but it strikes me that that Welch season was kind of a tipping point for some people in the sabermetric community. You, Bill, had quit doing the Abstracts just a couple years before and even though you started the Baseball Books around then, in some sense your group of fans was a little bit more "on their own" than usual, we had to fend for ourselves a little bit more. I was in college when Welch had his big year, and I remember doing the minimal research to make sure he was pitching in good luck, which of course he was, this was clear even during the season if you did ANY research. It was a foregone conclusion that he would win the Cy Young even though he hadn't been all that good. ... In some of us there might have been a "never again" reaction among people who understood park effects and the impact of the offense on W-L records. Obviously we've come a long way since then, most notably with Felix Hernandez's win in 2010 (not all the data is so encouraging....).
8:17 AM Aug 4th
 
337
McLain, Smoky Joe, Guidry, Cone....to have a big season, you almost HAVE to be lucky as well as pretty good, don't you? Now I'm curious as to which 18-win guys could have won 25 or 30 with a little more luck.
6:38 AM Aug 4th
 
 
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