A Quality Start in 1965

October 14, 2017

Last week, somebody (not on BJOL) mentioned a terrific pitchers’ duel that took place late in the 1965 season, between two fading stars, famous ex-teammates (former roommates, actually), which I’d never heard about, so I looked up the game and marveled at the excellence of the duel. (A pitchers’ duel-- for those born in this millennium—was two simultaneous low-scoring complete games thrown by each side’s pitcher, usually ending 1-0 or 2-1.) This one went 0-0 until the bottom of the seventh when a famous nutjob and future batting champion hit a home run off one 44-year-old pitcher and then in the eighth inning another solo shot was hit off him by one of the weaker hitters in league history, giving his youthful (38-year old) former roomie a 2-0 win.

I was completely unaware of this game, or had forgotten it, but it looked like a great, suspenseful game—the 38-year-old winner was facing a lineup that featured three Hall of Fame sluggers in the prime of their power, so anything could have happened when he came out to pitch the ninth inning. (Can you imagine the controversy today if a manager sent a pitcher in his late thirties out to pitch the ninth in a save situation? With the previous season’s saves runner-up well-rested in the bullpen? Again, kiddies, this sort of thing used to happen all the time, honest.) He got the least of the three sluggers (only 379 HR) to hit into a doubleplay to end the game. The guy who mentioned the game to me (I think on some online baseball-trivia site) was taken by the fact that he’d never known that either pitcher even had played for the team he was on at the time.

The losing team was in second place, one and a half games out, at the time (August 31st) and the winning team was also in contention, five games further back, so it’s not as if this game was devoid of public interest but it, for some reason, never went down in the history books with other better-known matchups like the Spahn-Marichal marathon, where each man went 16 innings,  or the 1958 World Series where Cy Young Award-winner Bob Turley faced the previous year’s World Series MVP Lew Burdette three times, including game seven.

I mention those examples because the two pitchers, as you’ve probably guessed, were Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, pitching for the Giants and the Phillies, respectively. It was Spahn’s final MLB loss, as it happened, and both men’s careers were basically done: Spahn pitched a few odd games after 1965, but none in MLB, and Burdette had ten more MLB decisions left in him over the next two seasons. The exceptionally high quality of their pitching in this game, coupled with the proximity to the ends of their careers, was what really caught my eye.

Both men were obviously capable, at this very late stage of their careers (which totaled 566 victories), of throwing an excellent game, but each man was almost out of chances to start, ever again. Spahn in particular would start only three more games, after this masterpiece, in his career, which had a month to go.

It seems to me, maybe I’m wrong, that if a pitcher today throws a complete game 3-hitter like this, no team would pull the plug on the guy after just one more month, and if they did, there would be teams lined up around the block offering the guy a contract and a dozen more starts, at least, to see what else he’s got left in the tank.

But maybe this game was a complete fluke? Maybe the guy had routinely gotten bombed out recently, making this game into an anomalous freak blast-from-the-past? Maybe Spahn was definitively washed up, and one fluke game doesn’t change that soundly demonstrated conclusion?

Aha! (Ahem.) That’s why this game really drew my attention. Earlier this year, just after I was doing my research into Bill Wakefield (whose place on the 1965 Mets roster essentially got aced-out by Warren Spahn—link to the SABR-bio on Wakefield that I’d promised, here: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/421f2c9c ), I looked at the 1965 Mets fairly closely, and noticed that while Spahn had a terrible won-lost record, he actually hadn’t pitched that poorly. When the Mets released him (released him!) in July, his W-L record was 4-12. (That winning percentage, .250, matches precisely the Mets’ winning percentage in their first year, 1962, when they made their bones as the most inept MLB team since the innovation of fielding gloves.)

Going through Spahn’s 1965 record game-by-game, however, I found out that though he’d gotten bombed out now and then, like every other pitcher on the team, he’d actually pitched a very impressive number of what we would now label as "Quality Starts." He lost many of them, but like the Burdette game later in the season, you really couldn’t put any of the blame on him. He did his job the vast majority of the time, but because the team behind him didn’t hit or didn’t field, usually both simultaneously, his W-L record stunk. He finished up the year, and his career, with a 7-16 record.

Soon afterwards, I got all caught up in Bill’s fabulous series on lucky and unlucky pitchers, not seeing much there about Spahn particularly, certainly not his 1965 W-L record, and came away wondering if Spahn had been luckier, just plain luckier, in 1965,  he would been able to extend his MLB career even longer than he had.  

Certainly, if he’d been able to turn a few more of his quality starts into wins rather than losses, he might have had a record much closer to .500 in July, which would have made him into the Mets’ best starter, at least as measured by won-lost record. But even if the Mets did release him when they did, some other major league team would have seen him as a valuable asset down the stretch, as the Giants did, and if he would have finished up the year with a winning record, as I will show he might well have, would he have been released again after the season (the Giants let him go on October 15th,, fifty-two years ago today) and never been picked up again?  I say: No way.

I’m not going to try to reproduce Bill’s methods in assessing Spahn’s 1965 luckiness or unluckiness (if you want to take a stab at it, be my guest) but instead will try to make my case by laying out the Quality Starts that he got very little credit for at the time (no doubt because that stat didn’t yet exist).

First place, Spahn’s 1965 actually got off to a decent start, as measured by W-L record: as late as the morning of May 28th, he’d won 4 games and lost 4, which on those early Mets teams, was a team-record setting pace. (Seriously—the team’s season-record for wins was Al Jackson’s 13, which would stand until Tom Seaver came along. Spahn was on pace for sixteen wins.)  He would then, however, lose eight straight games, winning none, but several of his twelve overall Met losses came in very strong efforts:

·        Back-to-back complete-game victories against the eventual World Champion Dodgers and the powerhouse Giants on April 20th and 25th, giving up 4 earned runs in 18 innings.

·         A complete-game loss to the Phillies (Jim Bunning), a 4-hitter, giving up one run in 9 IP on May 5th.

·        A complete-game victory over Philadelphia (Bunning again), 2 ER in 9 IP on May 24th.

·        A complete-game 2-1 loss to LA (Don Drysdale), 2 ER in 9 IP on June 11th, followed by another 2-1 loss to Sandy Koufax (2 ER in 7 IP) on the 20th.

Totaling it up, that’s six gems against top competition, (5 CGs, one 7 IP) 52 IP and 11 ER, for a 3-3 Won/Lost record, and a 1.90 ERA. These are not quality starts: they are top quality starts, against Hall of Fame competition. (The two initial wins were earned against Claude Osteen and Bob Bolin, not exactly slouches either.) In handy chart form:

Date

IP

ER

Opponent

Opposing Starter

4/20

   9

  1

LA

Osteen

4/25

   9

  3

SF

Bolin

5/ 5

   9

  1

PHL

Bunning

5/24

   9

  2

PHL

Bunning

6/11

   9

  2

LA

Drysdale

6/20

   7

  2

LA

Koufax

4/20- 6/20

 52

11

3 LAD, 2 PHL, SF

4 HoFs, 1 All-Star

 

Spahn pitched four other quality starts for the dreadful Mets in the first half of the year, not quite up to the quality of those six gems, but official quality starts nonetheless:  in his first start of the season, against Houston, for example, he gave up 3 ER in 8 IP, a pretty strong game. And then he lost two games to Pittsburgh in the space of ten days, giving up 1 ER in 8 IP against Bob Veale on May 28th (and losing on unearned runs) and then matching up against Veale again on June the 6th, losing the game on 3 ER in 6 IP.  He then lost on June 15th to the Reds (Sammy Ellis, on his way to 22 wins) giving up 3 runs in 7 IP. The totals in these four quality starts show that Spahn pitched 29 innings and gave up 10 earned runs, for a W/L record of 0-4 but an ERA of 3.10.

Date

IP

ER

Opponent

Opposing Starter

4/14

8

3

Houston

Farrell

5/28

8

1

Pittsburgh

Veale

6/6

6

3

Pittsburgh

Veale

6/15

7

3

Cincinnati

Ellis

4/14- 6/15

29

10

2 PGH, Hou, Cin

4 All-Stars

 

Combining these two charts, the top quality starts with the just-plain quality starts, gave Spahn ten quality starts for the Mets, in which he had a 2.33 ERA and a 3-7 W-L record to show. The National League as a whole in 1965 had a 3.54 ERA, so this old guy gave the Mets ten starts in half a season where he gave up under an earned run per game fewer than the league did as a whole, averaging better than 8 innings per start. So how did they reward this half-season of work?

They dumped him. That’s right, they released him. Mind you, he was not only pitching pretty well by my count, but he was also their pitching coach. Dudn’t matter. They cut him loose.

But he wasn’t quite done. He signed with the Giants a few days later, and pitched for them, not quite as well as he’d pitched for the Mets: he only had six quality starts for the Giants in a little over two months. In those six games (July 27th, August 13th, 19th, 27th and 31st, September 12th) Spahn pitched 45 innings and gave up 11 ER, for an ERA in those games of 2.20 (Won/Lost 2-3, 3 CG). I’ll spare you the chart, but his opponents in these six starts were five former or current All-Stars (Ray Herbert, Bob Purkey, Burdette, Drysdale and Bob Buhl) and one Met rookie, Darrell Sutherland, whose ass I’m sure he was tickled to watch Mays, McCovey, Hart and co. kicking all game long.

As with the Mets, of course, Spahn also pitched in other games for San Francisco, not nearly as well as he did when he pitched his 16 quality starts, but neither the Mets nor the Giants needed him to pitch every day like the Warren Spahn of 1947-1963, which is to say, like the #1 pitcher in the game.  They just needed Spahn to be an adequate end-of-the-rotation guy, whether they were a strong club or a very weak one.  The Giants in particular had a pretty deep rotation (Marichal, 22-13; Bob Shaw 16-9; Bob Bolin 14-6;  plus Gaylord Perry, who was just getting started, and Jack Sanford, who was just finishing). The Mets were still desperately awful, particularly their pitching staff, so why either of these clubs were so eager to release a 350+ game winner capable of pitching these 16 gems is a head-scratcher.

For the year, Mets and Giants combined, Spahn’s totals in these 16 quality starts came to 126 IP and 32 ER, for a 2.29 ERA. Oddly enough, he pitched exactly 126 innings for the Mets that year, so according to my calculations, in his 20 other games, he had a stratospheric ERA of 7.03. That’s pretty bad, but you can only lose a game one time. Does it matter how badly you pitch when you get your ears beaten in (and Spahn had some outsized ears to beat in), if you’re also throwing 16 quality starts from the end of the rotation?

For both teams in 1965, Spahn’s overall ERA came to 4.01, less than a half a run per game over league, about where a back-of-the-rotation guy should be. I’m not trying to make the case that Spahn’s 1965 is an important building block in his HoF credentials, not at all, but what I AM trying to argue is that it’s nothing to end your career over. MLB’s general consensus on Spahn’s final season was badly skewed by his misleading 7-16 W-L record. That record, and an ERA a half-run over league, led to the inevitable conclusion that it was time for this 44-year-old to call it a career. Right?

Well, no. From 2017, we can easily see that anyone who throws 16 quality starts, such as I’ve described, was far from washed up. On the other side of the ledger, there were exactly seven starts that he richly deserved to lose—terrible starts, in which he failed to pitch more than 6 innings but gave up earned runs at least at a 6.00 rate.  These seven terrible starts occurred about once a month, except for June, when Spahn got killed three times:

Date

IP

ER

4/30

5.1

4

5/20

5

7

6/1      

3.2 

3

6/25     

4

6

6/29      

6

4

7/10     

1

4

9/6

1.1

4

4/30- 9/6    

26.1

32

 

 

The ERA here smells particularly foul, well above ten earned runs per game. Spahn also had another seven starts in which he pitched neither a QS nor a stinker:

Date

IP

ER

5/11

8

4

5/16

7

5

7/5

4

2

7/22

2.1

3

8/8

5.1

1

8/23

6.1

4

9/27

4.1

2

5/11- 9/27

37.1

16

 

So we call this final batch of seven games Spahn started, with a 3.86 ERA, which were neither very good nor terrible, "non-decisions." Then he has his 7-16 Won-Lost record reversed. Now he’s that old coot who still "knows how to win." Sixteen wins, seven losses. Here’s a link to his 1965 game-by-game breakdown, if you want to check my arithmetic: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.fcgi?id=spahnwa01&t=p&year=1965 .  (I’m eliminating from this discussion his six relief appearances, where he didn’t pitch particularly well or particularly badly or particularly much, facing 35 batters in 1965 in relief, winning none, losing none, and saving none. Most of them came in the season’s final two weeks, after SF had dropped him from the starting rotation. His final two MLB appearances came in mop-ups, 9-1 and 17-2 blowout losses.)

I don’t know how Spahn’s 1965 would rate in Bill’s system of deserved wins and losses—I admit cheerfully and without prompting that reversing Spahn’s W-L record and assigning him 16 wins and 7 losses is more for the sake of poetic justice than it is a carefully reasoned argument. (If you want to call the 7/22 game a stinker and the 6/29 game "not too bad," or both stinkers or both "not too bad"s, feel free.) But even assigning him 3 fewer wins and 3 more losses, which is the worst that you could do, still yields a 13-10 record for the old master in 1965. With a W-L record like that, wouldn’t you suppose he’d get a contract offer from some pitching-poor team in 1966? He didn’t get a one.

But he didn’t retire, either, Not exactly, anyway. He pitched a few games in the Mexican League in 1966, and a few more games in AAA in 1967, delaying his election to the HoF, incidentally, by two full years. His SABR bio claims that these weren’t attempted comebacks as much as they were practical lessons in how pitching is done, for the benefit of the teams he was coaching and managing at Mexico City and at Tulsa.

With 16 quality starts, and maybe 7 or 8 terrible ones, who knows how many more games Spahn could have gone on to win in the big leagues? More to the point, he may have been able to extend his career to age 46 or 47 or…well, who knows? He died in 2003, at the age of 82, so let’s set that as our outside limit to the length of his pitching winning ball.

There were seven pitchers in 2017 who had exactly 16 quality starts (Dallas Keutchel, Jason Vargas, Jhoulys Chacin,  whose first name looks like my last tray in Scrabble, Jake Arrieta, Robbie Ray, Martin Perez and Luis Perdomo) and they had an average W-L record of about 13-9. (Only Perdomo had a losing record—the other five each won between 13 and 18 games, and lost between 5 and 11.)  None of them is being turned out to pasture, correctly so. The Mets and the Giants and eighteen other MLB teams in 1965 and 1966 screwed the pooch, I think, by looking only at Spahn’s W-L record and his birth certificate, and ignoring the sixteen occasions on which he was incredibly effective.

The news coverage of the Burdette-Spahn duel that got me doing this piece, btw, is itself gripping: since it was the last day of August, this game (this doubleheader, actually) was Willie Mays’ last chance to tie Rudy York’s MLB record for most HRs in one calendar month, which the Phillies prevented him from doing, so lots of attention was being paid to this game for that reason alone. Mays staying stuck on 17 HRs for August, though, didn’t mean he wasn’t up to his usual super-human standard: the Giants won the first game in extra innings when Mays scored on an infield grounder, after doubling and taking third on a passed ball (issued in the course of an intentional walk to McCovey—when was the last time you saw that?). In the previous inning, the 10th, he made a spectacular catch against the scoreboard on a 400-foot blast by Dick Stuart. Also included in the New York Times account is the information that Juan Marichal, still under a nine-day suspension for assaulting John Roseboro with a bat on August 22, was being asked by the Commissioner’s office not to accompany the Giants on their next trip to LA, to which the Giants agreed. (Marichal wasn’t scheduled to pitch in that series, anyway, so it seemed eminently wise to postpone his scheduled lynching.) And in the ninth inning of the pitchers’ duel, down by two runs, the Giants staged a rally against Burdette, with Jim Ray Hart and Jesus Alou singling with only one out. (Incredibly, at this juncture, Gene Mauch still didn’t call for his well-rested closer, Jack Baldschun.) Instead Burdette faced the pinch-hitter, Orlando Cepeda, he of the mere 379 lifetime HRs, and induced him to hit a hard grounder up the middle that defensive wiz Bobby Wine turned into a game-ending DP.  I remember a pun the papers were fond of making around this time, "The Plays of Wine and Rojas," and this was one of their best. I’m glad I got to relive, through the miracle of Retrosheet and newspaper archives, one of the best games I wish I’d seen.

The famous nutjob and future batting champ, btw, if you didn’t feel like looking at the box score, was Alex Johnson, and the weak stick, who hit the other HR off Spahn in the 8th, was the aforementioned defensive wizard Bobby Wine. As ever, I welcome your comments.

 
 

COMMENTS (23 Comments, most recent shown first)

Steven Goldleaf
Thanks for responding to that, MWeddell. I was thinking "AAA" was the abbreviation for "Triple-A level baseball," which a non-fan might be able to make sense of but not necessarily "AAA," but I could go either way on that one. I didn't actually use "AS" for "All-Star," it turned out (I had, but spelled it out when I found I had space in my charts to spell it out), but I did use "DP" and one other abbreviation somewhere so my AC (Abbreviation Count) actually goes up upon revision. I guess 20 or so abbreviations in an article just don't bother me the way Bill seems to think I should be bothered, as a reader, about them.

If you actually got confused, thinking I meant "The American Automobile Association" by AAA or "Displaced Person" by "DP," or "Equal Rights Amendment" by "ERA," then I would understand Bill's AA (anti-abbreviation, not Alcoholics Anonymous, nor African-American, nor affirmative action, nor Double-A level baseball) position better. It just seems quirky to me, but he's passionate about it. Maybe we're just weirdos, MWeddell.
5:25 AM Oct 19th
 
MWeddell
Regarding the abbreviations feedback that Steven requested, BJOL is the only one that slowed me down. I had to first think what it stood for and then mentally pronounce Bill James Online before I could move on. Not a big deal at all, but since you asked for feedback, I'd spell that one out.

I don't think AAA is even an abbreviation, is it?
11:10 AM Oct 18th
 
JohnPontoon
In the direction of getting retired with gas still in the tank, I always felt that the late Tony Phillips got the ol' screwski at the back end of his career.

Looking it up at BBRef (dot) com, I see that my memory is correct in this instance. In his 1999 swan song, he put up an OPS+ of 108 in 484 PAs ( Plate Appearances ) as a utility player with Oakland. He wasn't a "plays-left-AND-right-field!"-type utility player either: he played 65 games at 2B and 27 at CF, as well as the corner OF spots (19 & 13 G at LF & RF, respectively.)

I'm reasonably confident that he could have held his own in Y2K against a 79-year-old Warren Spahn.
4:43 PM Oct 17th
 
wilbur
OBS,

That Bob Lemke blog is pretty interesting. I bookmarked it for future reading.
4:16 AM Oct 17th
 
OldBackstop
A coupla more things:

Spahn had, as you point out, a good number of Quality Starts in '65 for the Mets. I think the way to look at that is the percentage of QS in Game starts. For Spahn, he had 19 starts and ten Quality Starts (53%)....but none in his final four starts.

So Spahn had 53%....is that replacement level? Well, the team for the year tallied 48% QS in GS. So a negligible difference, and one that appeared ready to disappear the way Spahn was throwing.

His departure opened the door for younger pitchers, for instance, rookie Tug McGraw was given starts starting August and had 5 QS in 9 GS....a 56% clip.
2:21 AM Oct 17th
 
OldBackstop
Couple of things.

Interesting blog about Spahn's time with the Mets. Boy, the Braves manager slammed him on the way out: boblemke.blogspot.com/2015/03/final-spahn-custom-is-65-make-over.html

Spahn's release from the Mets came within a day or two of Stengel breaking his hip and Wes Westrum being named surprise interim manager from a coaching staff that included Yogi Berra and Spahn. They were at the end of a nine game losing streak. Spahn had been blown out in his last few starts, exiting his final after giving up four runs in the first inning....went 0-8 in his last ten starts....a major bitch in the link above was he insisted he had to start, so maybe that helped the decision to cut him loose.

Spahn had 13 20 win seasons, and that wasn't padded with 45 starts like some old timers...he never had 40.
6:15 PM Oct 16th
 
Steven Goldleaf
And as I understand Bill's pitcher-ranking method, Spahn gets a lock on the top spot by being the league's ace pitcher for years until Roberts gets cooking, or certainly until Drysdale's established himself as Spahn's clear superior. It takes a while of quality pitching for Roberts to ace Spahn out, maybe by the early 50s, and I doubt Drysdale could do it inside of 1960 at best. Personaly, I don't think Drysdale wrests the #1 spot away from Shapn until after 1962, if then. Remember, Spahn has a few very good years in the late 40s when no one else who's pitching then is still around by the time Roberts and then Drysdale come along, and as Bill has set his system up (rightly) you can't knock someone out of the #1 slot unless you outpitch him for a few years. Since Spahn doesn't really have an off-year, just good years and great years, that's hard to do. Roberts outpitches him in the early 50s, but not by enough to depose him quickly.

Why we're discussing this at such length is beyond me, though it's an interesting digression off my digressive-enough remark that Spahn was the top pitcher in MLB in the period from 1947 to 1963, which was totally extraneous to my argument, just an observation as to the quality of his career.
5:17 PM Oct 16th
 
OldBackstop
Good article, Steve.
5:05 PM Oct 16th
 
MarisFan61
I know that you don't mean Win Shares in talking about Bill's method, but Spahn is way ahead of Drysdale on Win Shares for that period, 183 to 155.
(breakdown available)
3:34 PM Oct 16th
 
KaiserD2
Trying that table again:

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Kershaw 2.9 2.7 4.8 3.1 5.6 5.6 5.2 4.2 3.5
Scherzer 1.5 -0.5 2.9 4.3 4.0 4.9 3.7 4.4
3:18 PM Oct 16th
 
KaiserD2
Steve161,

Bill's methods and mine usually get very similar results. I would be quite surprised if Bill's method showed Spahn better than Drysdale for 1956-63 (what I should have done, not 1962). This is true about Kershaw and Scherzer, too. Here are my results.

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 3014 2015 2016 2017
Kershaw 2.9 2.7 4.8 3.1 5.6 5.6 5.2 4.2 3.5
Scherzer 1.5 -0.5 2.9 4.3 4.0 4.9 3.7 4.4

Kershaw has five seasons of 4 or more WAA. That's more than Koufax had although Koufax's seasons were even better. Kluber last year had 6.1 WAA which is better than Kershaw has ever done, evidently.

It's rather odd, by the way, that most of baseball's best pitchers this year were so awful in the playoffs.

DK
3:15 PM Oct 16th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Sorry, astros, what did I get wrong there? Not seeing it.
1:42 PM Oct 16th
 
astros34
Something to clean up editorially:

"I mention those examples because the two pitchers, as you’ve probably guessed, were Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, pitching for the Giants and the Phillies, respectively."
1:35 PM Oct 16th
 
steve161
David and Steven, the reasons you are talking past each other is that Steven is using Bill's method for determining the best pitcher in baseball, while David is relying on his favorite metric, Wins Above Average. It is hardly surprising that two approaches will come up with two different answers. Here's a question for David: Bill's method has shown Clayton Kershaw to be the best in recent years, occasionally overtaken by Max Scherzer. What does WAA show?
9:24 AM Oct 16th
 
KaiserD2
The discussion we are having, Steven, raises an interesting point: how do you evaluate pitchers like Spahn after 1953, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, and some others, who are rarely truly great, but consistently good? I think what you are saying is that you couldn't find another pitcher who averaged as much value as Spahn over the years 1956-62 as he did. Checking I find that Spahn averaged 2.1 WAA in those those years. Drysdale, it turns out, averaged 2.5 in those years (including .9 in 1956 when he pitched only 99 innings.) (It is a weird characteristic of Drysdale's career that all his best seasons occurred in years that the Dodgers did poorly.) But Spahn's average performance for the whole period 1947-63 is very unusual, for sure, and very likely the best for any pitcher between the dead ball era and the steroid era over such a long period of time. That is where his greatness lies. Unlike Koufax, Gibson, Whitey Ford (1964), and McClain, Spahn was never the MVP on a pennant winner.

DK
8:29 AM Oct 16th
 
Steven Goldleaf
I didn’t do this on purpose, but I just counted twenty-one distinct abbreviations I used in this article, including the abbreviations for cities on some charts (in parentheses below), and I’m curious if anyone was bothered by the abbreviations. I didn’t notice I was using most of them, so they certainly didn’t bother me as I was writing the piece, but LMK (let me know) if you found them obtrusive or annoying. In the context of BJOL readers, I assume everyone instantly got these, either through familiarity with them or via context. The only one that was slightly unfamiliar to me was “QS” and I consciously decided that after a dozen iterations of “quality start,” including in the title, that one would need no explanation.

BJOL, MLB, HR, MVP, SABR, W-L, IP, ER, ERA, btw, (LA, SF, PHL, PGH, Hou, Cin,) HoF, AS, CG, AAA, QS

6:44 AM Oct 16th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thanks for your efforts, David. I think we're posting at cross-purposes here. I'm suggesting that (by Bill's pitcher-ranking model, which I'm crudely trying to approximate) that Spahn might have taken over the top pitcher-ranking somewhere around 1951 or '52, with two top finishes ('47 and '51) and a bunch of other high rankings, and hung onto that ranking for several more years while Roberts was catching to him, given up the #1 spot to Roberts after a few strong year, around 1955, but then resumed the #1 ranking when Roberts had some poor years on the late 1950s, and kept it until Koufax came long. You're doing this year by year, in other words, while I'm trying to account for a longer period of time to claim the crown and then to hang onto it. Spahn is greatly advantaged by Bill's method in that he never really had a poor year in this period, and had a lot of good and great ones.
6:22 AM Oct 16th
 
KaiserD2
Sorry, I accidentally posted that before it was done. Trying again, Steven Goldleaf.

Here's what my data shows. National League only, WAA.
Top Pitcher WAA Spahn
1947 Spahn 6.5 6.5
1948 Brecheen 6.5 0.9
1949 Pollet 4 2.4
1950 Blackwell 5.5 0.8
1951 Spahn 4.7 4.7
1952 Roberts 4.9 2.3
1953 Roberts 5.5 5.3
1954 Roberts 6 2.2
1955 Roberts 6.6 2.2
1956 Antonelli 3.5 3.1
1957 Drysdale 4.5 1.5
1958 Sam Jones 3.5 1.6
1959 Larry Jackson 4.9 2.9
1960 Ernie Broglio 6.1 0.2
1961 Jim O'Toole 3.3 1.7
1962 Broglio 4.9 3.5

Now Spahn had a very remarkable record. There isn't anyone else in the NL who is remotely close to him in being a positive factor, and sometimes much more, for the whole of this period. There is no one like that in the AL either--Wynn would be the closest but he isn't really all that close.
However, I would say that Spahn is second to Roberts in dominance in 1951-5 (after having led the league once previously in 1947) but he is not dominant after that--some one is always significantly better. We can both take comfort from these figures, I'd say.
6:16 PM Oct 15th
 
KaiserD2
Steven Goldleaf,

Here's what my data shows. National League only, WAA.
Top Pitcher WAA Spahn
1947 Spahn 6.5 6.5
1948 Brecheen 6.5
1949 Pollet 4
1950 Blackwell 5.5
1951 Spahn 4.7
1952 Roberts 4.9
1953 Roberts 5.5
1954 Roberts 6
1955
1956
1957 Drysdale 4.5
1958
1959 Larry Jackson 4.9
1960 Ernie Broglio 6.1
1961
1962
6:00 PM Oct 15th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thanks, all. David Kaiser, I'm using my own version (i.e., my instincts) of Bill's pitcher-rating system when I make Spahn the #1 pitcher in the game for the 1947-63 period. There certainly were stretches in there when someone else emerged as #1, probably Newhouser at the very start, then Roberts or one of the Cleveland trio or maybe some Yankee ace, Raschi or Reynolds, and then perhaps Ford, and finally by 1963 maybe even Koufax poked his head into the #1 slot, I don't know, but overall from '47-'63, I have to believe (unless shown otherwise) that Spahn held down the #1 slot more than any other pitcher in the game. He never slipped backwards very much at all, and he kept building and building his dominance. If you took me to be saying that he held it solid throughout this period and never relinquished it for a day, then I apologize for over-stating my case, but that's actually what I meant to say in my seat-of-the-pants assessment, that Spahn dominated the period from 1947 to 1963 like no else, and probably like no one ever did for seventeen seasons in a row.

As to your first point, I'll just say that it supports what I'm mostly saying here: Spahn in 1965 was a slightly above average (Mets and Giants combined) pitcher, and a hell of a #4 or #5 (spot) starter, whose performance certainly warranted at least a contract offer from someone.
9:30 AM Oct 15th
 
KaiserD2
This is an interesting article.

Both baseball-reference.com and my somewhat revised method, based on theirs, show Spahn with -1.2 WAA for the 1965 Mets in just 126 innings. He allowed 5 runs per 9 innings with them (all runs), while an average pitcher would have been expected to allow 4.2 runs per game pitching in front of the Mets defense against the same opponents. That was an improvement over his horrible 1964 season when he was -3.9 WAA (my calculation) in 173.2 innings. But Spahn was a perfectly average pitcher in his 71 2/3 innings for the Giants.

I would have to dispute the characterization of Spahn as the best pitcher in the game all the way through 1962 or so. After 1953 he had very good seasons in 1956, 1959, and 1962, but he was only somewhat better than average in most of the other years. He pitched in a good pitcher's park and had Hall of Fame teammates, and he was very durable. But after 1953 there were always pitchers better than he.
8:45 AM Oct 15th
 
BryanBM
2017 Spahn (game result from Mets perspective):

Apr 14 - Mets lead 2-0 through 6, faces at most 2 batters in 7th who double and single (3-3 through 9, 7-6 loss in 11)
Apr 20 - Mets lead 1-0 through 7.5, closer comes in after he gives up a 2 out triple if he even starts the 8th (3-2 win)
Apr 25 - Mets lead 4-0 through 7.5, might give up the 2 out RBI double and possibly the RBI single that follows but he doesn't finish the 8th (4-3 win)
Apr 30 - 1-1 through 5.5, it goes E5, HR, HR, 1B, K, HR, pulled, would depend on how rested the bullpen was (6-1 loss)
May 2 - Mets trail 9-8 though 7.5, doesn't pitch in relief in the bottom of the 8th and give up an insurance run (10-8 loss)
May 5 - the perfect storm it takes to get a CG loss in 2017 (14 in 2017, 101 in 1965), allows leadoff HR in 6th, only two baserunners rest of game for Phillies are 2 out singles in 6th and 8th (1-0 loss)
May 11 - Mets lead 3-0 though 6, it goes 2B, Out, Out, 1B, HR, Out, Spahn most likely doesn't finish the 7th (4-3 loss)

Spahn at this point is 49.1 IP, 7 HR, 9 BB/HBP, 22 K, .245 BABIP
League avg 1965 NL in 49.1 IP, 4.4 HR, 17.3 BB/HBP, 32.5 K, .274 BABIP
Spahn after this point is 148.1 IP, 19 HR, 50 BB/HBP, 68 K, .288 BABIP
League avg 1965 NL in 148.1 IP, 13.4 HR, 52 BB/HBP, 97.7 K, .274 BABIP
Spahn as a reliever in 1965 is 8 IP, 1 HR, 2 BB/HBP, 3 K, .310 BABIP

Colon in 2017 is 143 IP, 28 HR, 36 BB/HBP, 89 K, .335 BABIP
League avg 2017 ML in 143 IP, 20.2 HR, 58.2 BB/HBP, 132.6 K, .300 BABIP
4:07 AM Oct 15th
 
MarisFan61
I enjoyed this a lot because I remember very well about Spahn's gig with the Mets. It was a very big thing at the time, getting huge attention among fans and in the media. The eventual story was seen as more complicated than what's indicated here, and I don't think there was much feeling that the Mets "dumped" him although I can't rule out that such a view would have been apt.

As you note, he had good games and bad games. Coming out of the gate it was mostly good games, and this was very captivating and exciting in Met world, even among some people like me who weren't really Met fans. Later, while he still sometimes did well, and indeed his game log doesn't look awful, the impression was that he was having too many bad games, plus -- and this is a thing that might not look so bad now but which wasn't considered acceptable in a starting pitcher then -- he was seen as just not having the capability to consistently survive beyond the 4th or 5th inning, and it was felt that this was becoming increasingly so.

Looking at the game logs, I see an obvious thing that might have been tried, which would have been to give him a little more rest between starts. He was starting every 4th or 5th game. When he did poorly and didn't last long, it seems there may have been some tendency actually to bring him back sooner for the next start, in the 4th game rather than the 5th. But on the other hand, as you said he was the pitching coach, and so I imagine he had a lot of control over who pitched when, plus, much was written about how the team was bending over backwards to accommodate what he wanted, even when they wished otherwise, because he was Warren Spahn. It was written also that increasingly there was general conflict between him and the team and that they were finding his 'personality' problematic. (Leonard Koppett had some articles in the NY Times about all this; I just looked back at a couple of them.) The team may have concluded that he was more suited to the bullpen than starting but he refused the move; I'm not sure about this.

I'd add this further thing. I don't recall it being written about and didn't think of it at the time, but it seems to me that it was in there too. (If it was bigly in there, "dumped" could be apt.) As you know, the Mets in those days cared greatly about gaining fans and about gaining interest. Getting Spahn gave them a new huge leap on that. Remember Suzyn Waldman going so nuts about Clemens coming back to the Yanks? (I know you do.) :-) I think it's accurate to say, that was nothing compared to the feeling about Spahn coming to the Mets.

Obviously Spahn wasn't going to be part of the Mets' "future"; he was there to add to the immediate present, and I think a major part of what the Mets found appealing in what he added to the immediate present was the fan excitement.

And, by mid-season, that was gone. As I remember, Spahn had become a downer, rightly and fairly or not. So, what do you do? You brought him here to help the team NOW and to bring huge fan excitement, but he wasn't doing that well now, he didn't seem consistently to have the stamina to pitch beyond the first few innings and that doesn't really work, it doesn't fit our structure or maybe we were just too stupid to think of giving him more rest between starts, and anyway the world isn't excited anymore about our having Warren Spahn, so what can we do?

BTW I never knew or just didn't remember about any game between him and Burdette, and I didn't guess it before you said who the pitchers were.
1:22 AM Oct 15th
 
 
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