Overcoming Arachnophobia

July 21, 2020
I've read that, for folks who suffer from arachnophobia, the recommended treatment is exposure therapy. So let's see how this goes.....
 
What's in a Name?
 
As I'm sure you know, sports team names are very much in the news these days. Nothing terribly new about that, of course - the topic of team names (and logos), whether or not they are offensive, and discussion surrounding whether or not they should be changed, has been ongoing for as long as I can remember. In my own backyard of Southwestern Ohio, there have been at least 2 notable ones, one that I remember well, and an earlier one that was just a little before my time. 
 
The more recent of the 2 involved Miami University (Ohio), which used to be known by the same team name that the Washington professional football team has recently decided to move away from. The university had been using the nickname since the early 1930's. However, in the mid-1990's the Oklahoma-based Miami tribe withdrew its support of the name, and at the tribe's request, the university decided to officially change to the "RedHawks" in 1996. 
 
The other local instance goes back a few decades prior to that, when the Cincinnati Reds changed its name to "Redlegs" after the 1953 season during the "Red Scare" era, when the reference to "Reds" carried some undesirable overtones. A corresponding logo change (which removed the word "Reds") followed. The team did revert to "Reds" after the 1958 season (eventually the word "Reds" also found its way back into the logo) and the team has been referred to as the "Reds" ever since. 
 
Much like the Washington professional football team is currently doing, Cleveland's baseball team is undergoing a review of its own team name, and a change seems inevitable. I was born in Ohio and lived here all of my life, and although the Reds have been my primary interest, I do follow the Cleveland sports scene as well. In this article, I am going to focus specifically on Cleveland's situation first, and then I'll take a look at the history associated with the team nickname that I think they're going to move forward with, and have a little fun with an all-time roster exercise. 
 
A Look Back / A Look Forward
 
I realize many fans have emotional ties to the "Indians" name, but I'm not one of them. I'm actually looking forward to see what the new name will be. I think, done right, it can be a very positive change, a great opportunity to start a new chapter (not to mention an opportunity to sell a ton of new merchandise). 
 
At this time, the leading candidates for a new name that I have seen tossed about include Spiders, Buckeyes, Wild Things, Guardians, Blue Sox, Cuyahogas, Rocks, Rockers, and 3 names that are tied to previous Cleveland players from the past - Dobys, Fellers, and Naps, the latter of which the team was known by from 1903 to 1914 before it was ultimately changed to "Indians" from 1915 through the present.  
 
If you go back even further, the franchise went by other names such as the Bronchos (yes, there was an "h" in there), and the Bluebirds (or "Blues"). Prior to that, when they were part of the Western League (basically the forerunner to the American League), they were known as the Lake Shores, and prior to that the Rustlers (when they were located in Grand Rapids). So, even though the name hasn't been changed in more than 100 years, there were plenty of alterations prior to that.

In scanning the options......
 
·         I have to say I find it a little hard to believe that "Naps" would be appealing to today's fan base, as I doubt that many of them feel much of a personal connection to all-time great Napoleon Lajoie at this point, and there's the opportunity for too many puns about the team "sleeping" through various stretches if the team is playing poorly. 
 
·         "Buckeyes" would be a "tip of the cap" to the Negro League team by that name, but I think it is too closely associated with Ohio State already, so I don't think they'll go that route.  
 
·         "Guardians" is a reference to the "Guardians of Traffic" statues that overlook the city, and it's also the name of a Cleveland roller derby team. Frankly, it sounds a little boring to me. 
 
·         "Rocks" or "Rockers" ties into the Rock and Roll theme and the famous Hall of Fame Museum that the city is well known for, but I don't think they'll go that route.  
 
·         "Wild Things", to me, is just a little too wacky. Besides, despite his connection to that character, they can't just assume that Charlie Sheen will be readily available for appearances whenever the team feels like it.  As is well known around these parts, Sheen is a actually a diehard Cincinnati Reds fan. 
 
So, my money is on the "Spiders".  It's a cool name (although not completely unique in today's sports world, as it is used by the University of Richmond), and cool logo possibilities have already been explored. Also, as you probably know, "Spiders" has a historical connection to Cleveland's baseball past, as the city, in their pre-American League days, did have a franchise from 1887 to 1899, the first 2 of those seasons in the American Association (where they're listed as going by the "Blues"), and the last 11 in the National League where they went by the "Spiders". 
 
The Spiders are probably most renowned for their fateful final season of existence, in which the team had been gutted by the owners (the Robison brothers) by transferring most of their star players to the St. Louis team that they had just acquired (ah, those crazy 1890's!). The Spiders ended up playing most of its season on the road, and the Spiders ended up with a 20-134 record, the worst in MLB history. The team was eliminated from the league after the season, and the Spiders disappeared into oblivion.
 
Many fear the bad karma of bringing back a team name that carries with it the stigma of that historically horrible final season, and that's unfortunate because that season was out of character for the franchise. Prior to 1899 the team was actually quite good most of the time. They never finished first in any regular season standings, but they were generally competitive, and they did take home the 1895 Temple Cup (which was a matchup between first and second place finishers in the National League from 1894-1897), taking down the powerful Baltimore Orioles (a legendary team featuring such stars as Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley, John McGraw, Hughie Jennings, and Wilbert Robinson) 4 games to 1. During the team's time in the National League prior to that dismal last season, they compiled a record of 718-630 with 32 ties, finishing 2nd three times, and finishing in the upper half of the standings 7 times in those 10 seasons).
 
Per baseball-reference.com, here's the team's history during that time span, with yellow highlighting the years in which the team had a winning record:
Year
Team
League
G
W
L
Ties
W-L%
Finish
1899
Cleveland Spiders
NL
154
20
134
0
.130
12th of 12
1898
Cleveland Spiders
NL
156
81
68
7
.544
5th of 12
1897
Cleveland Spiders
NL
132
69
62
1
.527
5th of 12
1896
Cleveland Spiders
NL
135
80
48
7
.625
2nd of 12
1895
Cleveland Spiders
NL
132
84
46
2
.646
2nd of 12
1894
Cleveland Spiders
NL
130
68
61
1
.527
6th of 12
1893
Cleveland Spiders
NL
129
73
55
1
.570
3rd of 12
1892
Cleveland Spiders
NL
153
93
56
4
.624
2nd of 12
1891
Cleveland Spiders
NL
141
65
74
2
.468
5th of 8
1890
Cleveland Spiders
NL
136
44
88
4
.333
7th of 8
1889
Cleveland Spiders
NL
136
61
72
3
.459
6th of 8
1888
Cleveland Blues
AA
135
50
82
3
.379
6th of 8
1887
Cleveland Blues
AA
133
39
92
2
.298
8th of 8
 
Because I'm so fond of putting together "all-time rosters", I thought it might be fun to pick my an all-time Cleveland Spiders team. In selecting the team, I wanted players to have at least a "reasonable" amount of time with the franchise (usually at least a couple of years at a minimum), but I didn't automatically go with the player(s) who put in the most time. I tried to strike some sort of balance, but it's also a pretty limited time frame from which to select a truly robust roster, but we'll see what we can do.
 
One of the fun things about this roster is that, if you love baseball history, there are so many names that will be familiar to you. Several Hall of Famers (in various stages of their careers) passed through Cleveland during this era, as well as several players who, with a couple of tweaks here and there, could have easily ended up with Hall of Fame careers themselves. Along the way, as I tend to do, I'll try to call out something of interest about various players. 
 
So, let's put together an all-time Spiders team. This should be fun.
 
The All Time Cleveland Spiders Team
 
Catcher
 
There are two well known MLB catchers who are listed in the register on baseball-reference.com with "Chief" as their first name, and when I was a young fan starting to get familiar with the history of the game, I always used to get them confused. The one not related to this franchise was Jack "Chief" Meyers, who was indeed a Native American. Meyers starred for the Giants from 1909-1917. A generation prior to that, the other well known catching "Chief" was  Charles "Chief" Zimmer (1884-1903). Unlike Meyers, Zimmer was not a Native American, and explained that his nickname was bestowed upon him based on his role as one of the leaders and the captain of the Poughkeepsie "Indians" in the Hudson River League.
 
Zimmer and Meyers were both excellent catchers. Zimmer had a much longer career (he played 19 seasons vs. Meyers' 9) and probably had a better overall defensive reputation, while Meyers was probably the better hitter and better overall player at his peak. In his New Bill James Historical Abstract that was published about 20 years ago, Bill has the two players ranked very close, with Meyers ranked #60 among catchers and Zimmer at #62.
 
Bill named Zimmer as the catcher on his 1890's All-Decade team, and he was also his selection as the "Gold Glove" catcher for that decade. Zimmer also briefly held the single season record for most games caught in a season (125 in 1890) until Deacon McGuire surpassed it in 1895. I'm not positive of this next statement because I'm not sure I was able to conclude it with 100% accuracy, but I believe, at the time of his retirement in 1903, the only catchers with more career games caught than Zimmer were McGuire and Wilbert Robinson. At least I think so.
 
Backing up Zimmer on the Spiders' all time roster is another player with a very long MLB career - Jack O'Connor. O'Connor (who Bill has ranked #81 among catchers) put in 21 seasons in the Major Leagues, last appearing at the age of 44. O'Connor was a lot more versatile than Zimmer, putting in significant time at first base and the outfield. He makes for a nice bench player, and the Spiders' catching, with both Zimmer and O'Connor, is in reliable hands.
 
First Base
 
There are 2 decent possibilities here, but I'm going with Patsy Tebeau as the first baseman (and player-manager, to boot). Tebeau played 9 seasons with the Spiders and was the manager for their best seasons. Tebeau put in a fair amount of time at third base as well.
 
The other possibility at first is Jake Virtue. Virtue was a switch-hitter who had a brief (5 year) career, but he did get in a couple of years as the regular first baseman for the franchise. Virtue was pretty proficient at drawing walks, and had a career .376 OBP. 
 
Second Base
 
This one's a no-brainer, as Clarence "Cupid" Childs was the primary second baseman for 8 seasons in Cleveland. Bill had Childs ranked #26 at second base in the New Historical Abstract, right between Johnny Evers and Jim Gilliam. Childs was a .300 hitter who drew a huge number of walks. His .416 OBP is still #24 all-time - he's right in between Stan Musial and Wade Boggs in that category.
 
If you draw a line at 1901 (the inaugural season of the American League and the first year of 16-team stabilization in the Majors) as a cutoff, you can make a case that Childs was the best pre-1901 second baseman in MLB history, although I suspect most would go with Hall of Famer Bid McPhee. In addition to those two, other contenders would include the likes of Hardy Richardson, Bobby Lowe, and Fred Pfeffer. I'd be comfortable in stating that McPhee was the best defensive second baseman of that era, and Childs was the best offensive one. 
 
I'm not sure if Childs was the actualq leadoff hitter for the Spiders, but if he wasn't, he should have been. A couple of Childs-inspired tables:
 
Players with the highest walk rates through 1900, minimum 2,000 plate appearances:
 
Player
BB/PA
BB
PA
OBP
Jack Crooks
17.6%
612
3,471
.386
Bill Joyce
17.3%
721
4,163
.435
Roy Thomas
16.7%
230
1,377
.454
John McGraw
16.6%
727
4,376
.465
Yank Robinson
16.0%
667
4,179
.376
Billy Hamilton
15.7%
1125
7,183
.458
Cupid Childs
14.8%
961
6,492
.418
Jim McTamany
14.5%
535
3,682
.373
Bob Caruthers
14.3%
417
2,906
.391
Paul Radford
13.6%
790
5,822
.351
 
Players pre 1901, highest OBP (minimum 2,000 plate appearances):
 
Player
OBP
PA
John McGraw
.465
4,376
Billy Hamilton
.458
7,183
Bill Joyce
.435
4,163
Jesse Burkett
.433
6,422
Joe Kelley
.428
5,032
Willie Keeler
.426
4,547
Dan Brouthers
.424
7,686
Cupid Childs
.418
6,492
Jake Stenzel
.408
3,425
Ed Delahanty
.407
7,069
Denny Lyons
.407
5,029
Pete Browning
.403
5,315
Kip Selbach
.402
3,998
Bill Lange
.400
3,620
 
Shortstop
 
As easy a selection as Cupid Childs was at second base, it's equally easy, if not easier, to select Ed McKean as the shortstop, because he essentially manned the position for the entirety of the franchise's existence, and his time with the team essentially makes up his entire career. In the context of his time, McKean was one of the more powerful and run-producing shortstops of the pre-1901 era.
 
Highest slugging pecentage, players with 50% or more of their games at shortstop, pre-1901, minimum 2,000 plate appearances:
 
Player
SLG
PA
Bill Dahlen
.434
5,600
Ed McKean
.417
7,626
Hughie Jennings
.414
4,951
Herman Long
.405
7,116
George Wright
.398
2,941
Jack Rowe
.392
4,626
Gene DeMontreville
.388
2,738
Frank Shugart
.383
2,835
Frank Fennelly
.378
3,451
Jack Glasscock
.374
7,552
 
 
Most RBI per 600 plate appearances, players with 50% or more of their games at shortstop, pre-1901, minimum 2,000 plate appearances:
 
Player
G
RBI
PA
RBI/600 PA
Hughie Jennings
1,112
766
4,951
92.8
Ed McKean
1,655
1,124
7,626
88.4
Jack Rowe
1,044
644
4,626
83.5
Gene DeMontreville
642
369
2,738
80.9
Herman Long
1,525
912
7,116
76.9
Bill Dahlen
1,241
706
5,600
75.6
Tommy Corcoran
1,441
779
6,283
74.4
Bob Allen
607
306
2,532
72.5
Frank Shugart
638
337
2,835
71.3
Frank Fennelly
786
408
3,451
70.9
 
Third Base
 
Chippy McGarr is listed as the player with the most seasons as the primary third baseman (4), but there's a better option, as we encounter our first Hall of Famer, Bobby Wallace.   Wallace was much more well known for his time in St. Louis (mostly with the Browns in the American League, with a few seasons spent with the Cardinals and the Perfectos in the National League), but he got his start as a young player with the Spiders. Wallace debuted in 1894 as a 20-year old pitcher, and had some success with the team in his first few seasons (48 starts, 24-22 record, 3.89 ERA, and a 125 ERA+). We'll keep him in mind for the pitching staff.
 
It doesn't appear that Wallace was switched off of mound duty due to any arm trouble or anything. It just appears that they recognized his ability in the field, and in 1897, at age 23, he switched to third base and did well for a couple of seasons there, hitting .300 with 211 RBI over the 2 seasons. He was then one of the group of key players that were sent over to the St. Louis Perfectos in advance of that fateful 1899 season, and Wallace embarked on his long run as one of the game's best shortstops (Bill had him ranked #36 at SS in the New Historical Abstract). But for Cleveland, he's my third baseman.
 
Outfield
 
In left field, the team had one of the game's great stars of the 1800's and early 1900's, Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett (a.k.a, "Crab").   Bill had Burkett #14 in the New Historical Abstract. Burkett topped a .400 batting average twice for Cleveland, .405 in 1895, and .410 in 1896.
 
Highest career batting averages pre-1901, minimum 3,000 plate appearances:
 
Player
BA
PA
Willie Keeler
.381
4,547
Jesse Burkett
.357
6,422
Billy Hamilton
.348
7,183
Ed Delahanty
.343
7,069
Dan Brouthers
.343
7,686
Dave Orr
.342
3,411
Pete Browning
.341
5,315
Joe Kelley
.338
5,032
Jake Stenzel
.338
3,425
John McGraw
.337
4,376
 
In center field, the player who was the starter the most often was Jimmy McAleer, who is listed as the primary center fielder in 7 different seasons, and he has the 6th highest games played total with the franchise. McAleer, however, wasn't much of a hitter, and similar to the situation at third base with McGarr and Wallace, the more productive center fielder for the team was another future Hall Famer who broke in with Cleveland as a young player at a different position than the one he would ultimately be known for. At third base, it was Bobby Wallace. This time, the future Hall of Famer is George Davis.
 
Davis debuted with Cleveland at 19, and played 3 full seasons with the Spiders.   He wasn't the player that he would ultimately later become with the Giants (and later the White Sox), but he was pretty decent, posting a .265 average and a .334 OBP, with an OPS+ of 109. He mostly played center field in his first 2 seasons (with some third base in his second year), but in his third year he was more of a multi-position player, with significant time split among third base, shortstop and right field.   Bill had Davis as the #14 shortstop of all time in his Historical Abstract. If it's my team, Davis is my center fielder, and McAleer, who Bill had on his 1890's "Gold Glove Team", will be the backup/defensive replacement in center.
 
Davis has a connection to the right fielder that I'm selecting. After a disappointing 1892 season, Cleveland traded Davis in a rather unfortunate exchange (from Cleveland's perspective) to the New York Giants in exchange for another future Hall of Famer in Buck Ewing. Ewing was a good player, of course, but the key is that Davis, although coming off a down year, was still just 22 years old, and Ewing, who had been a major star for the Giants for almost a decade, was 32. Ewing did have a good first year with Cleveland (.344, 122 RBI), but fell off the next season and was released by the Spiders. 
 
Still, Ewing had enough for me to select him as the right fielder, which gives the Spiders an "all Hall of Fame" outfield, even though Davis and Ewing were Hall of Famers based much more on a) what they did with other clubs and b) what they did at other positions.   But, hey, it's my team....don't spoil my fun!
 
Similar to center field and Jimmy McAleer, if you went by playing time in right field, you'd probably opt for Harry Blake. Blake played 5 years in Cleveland and logged 373 games in right field, more than double Ewing's total. Still, like McAleer, I'll opt for having Blake on the bench.
 
So, to summarize - there 3 key positions (third, center, right) where I had choices between starting a player who:
 
a) had more playing time with the franchise, or
b) a player who exhibited greater value with the franchise despite less playing time. 
 
I consistently opted for player (b) who, in each case, also had a Hall of Fame career, albeit primarily for his work done with other franchises and also primarily for his performance at a different position.   I realize not everyone would go this route. 
 
Those 3 choices are summarized below along with each player's stats posted while with the Spiders:
 
 
POS
Player
WAR
G
PA
BA
OBP
SLG
R
2B
3B
HR
RBI
 
3B
Wallace
7.6
363
1,540
.286
.350
.411
215
67
40
8
239
 
3B
McGarr
-0.3
417
1,787
.277
.322
.341
286
66
12
5
214
 
 
POS
Player
WAR
G
PA
BA
OBP
SLG
R
2B
3B
HR
RBI
CF
Davis
7.1
416
1,868
.265
.334
.378
308
84
33
14
244
 
CF
McAleer
0.7
928
4,034
.252
.320
.307
562
106
33
10
427
 
 
POS
Player
WAR
G
PA
BA
OBP
SLG
R
2B
3B
HR
RBI
RF
Ewing
3.2
169
778
.316
.374
.460
149
40
19
8
161
 
RF
Blake
-0.8
430
1,837
.254
.335
.325
249
58
18
6
212
 
For one of the last 2 reserve slots, I'll select Cub Stricker, who was the starting second baseman in the Spiders' inaugural season of 1889, and was a carryover from the 2 years when the franchise was in the American Association (1887-1888) as the Blues. He can help spell Childs at second base if he needs a break.
 
For the last one? I guess I'll go with Patsy' brother George Tebeau, who hit .322 with a .413 OBP over 2 seasons with the team, although there's a temptation to go with Lou Sockalexis, who, depending on which version you listen to, was either the inspiration for the ultimate naming of the Cleveland team as the "Indians" or, well, he wasn't. Even after all this time, my understanding is that it's still a hotly debated topic. Seems like every few years there's an additional revelation about it, and I can't really add anything to it. In any case, Sockalexis was pretty impressive in his inaugural season with the team in 1897, but less so after that. I could go with Sockalexis over either Blake or McAleer, but he ended up with only 94 games and 395 plate appearances, although he did hit .313. Still, I'm not sure his brief flash of excellence was quite enough.
 
So, to recap, here's how the roster is shaping up after the position player review:
 
Position
Player
Also Played for the Team at:
C
Chief Zimmer
 
1B
Patsy Tebeau
3B
2B
Cupid Childs
 
3B
Bobby Wallace
OF, 2B
SS
Ed McKean
OF, 2B
LF
Jesse Burkett
 
CF
George Davis
SS, 3B
RF
Buck Ewing
 
Reserve
Jack O'Connor
C, 1B, OF
Reserve
Jake Virtue
1B, OF, SS, 3B
Reserve
Chippy McGarr
3B
Reserve
Cub Stricker
2B
Reserve
Jimmy McAleer
OF
Reserve
Harry Blake
OF
Reserve
George Tebeau
OF, 1B
 
As far as a batting order? I'd go with the following (sorry, no DH). Stats represent each player's numbers with the Spiders only:
 
Order
Pos
Player
BA
OBP
SLG
1
2B
Cupid Childs
.318
.434
.403
2
3B
Bobby Wallace
.286
.350
.411
3
LF
Jesse Burkett
.355
.435
.466
4
SS
Ed McKean
.304
.367
.420
5
RF
Buck Ewing
.316
.374
.460
6
CF
George Davis
.265
.334
.378
7
1B
Patsy Tebeau
.282
.334
.365
8
C
Chief Zimmer
.273
.343
.380
 
Not too shabby. OK, we've got positions covered. On to the pitchers....
 
Pitching Staff
 
No doubt about the ace of the Spiders. It's the legendary Cy Young
 
I find that one of the interesting things about Young's career is his split between Cleveland and Boston. He was outstanding for both, but the basic stats (except for wins) are quite a bit better for Boston in most categories, especially when you get to the ratios on the far right:
 
Tm
W
L
%
ERA
ERA+
G
CG
SHO
IP
H
BB
SO
H9
BB9
SO9
SO/W
CLV
240
135
.640
3.10
138
420
346
24
3,353.0
3,487
724
1,014
9.4
1.9
2.7
1.4
BOS
192
112
.632
2.00
147
327
275
38
2,728.1
2,347
299
1,341
7.7
1.0
4.4
4.5
 
He cut his walk rate in half, and improved his K/9 by about 60%, and his resulting K/BB ration more than tripled. The question is - did Young get better after moving to Boston? Or was it just a different context? In looking at it, I believe it's mostly league context.
 
Here's a fun little summary. The first compares the changes in league pitching averages between the NL of 1890-1898 (Cy Young's time with Cleveland) and the AL of 1901-1908 (Young's time with Boston) across a few of the key ratio categories. The second restates those same categories for Young.
 
Comparison
ERA
BB9
SO9
SO/W
NL 1890-1898
4.13
3.4
2.7
0.8
AL 1901-1908
2.88
2.4
3.6
1.5
AL vs. NL
-30%
-31%
34%
95%
Comparison
ERA
BB9
SO9
SO/W
Young-Clv
3.10
1.9
2.7
1.4
Young-Bos
2.00
1.0
4.4
4.5
Young Clv. vs. Young Bos
-35%
-47%
63%
220%
 
The ERA in the AL was about 30% lower than the NL had been roughly a decade earlier.   Young directionally improved about the same, and even a little better. The walk rate in the AL was about 31% lower, but Young's dropped about 47%. Strikeouts went up 34%, but Young went from being about league average to about 22% above league average. His subsequent K/BB ratio went from about twice the league rate to about 3 times. So, I do think Young improved, but I think most of it, or at least a sizable chunk was the difference in context.
 
What does WAR suggest about all of this? Young's rWAR was about 8.8 per season in Cleveland vs. 8.1 in Boston, about 9% higher. However, Young's average innings pitched was 372 per season in Cleveland vs. 341 in Boston. Again, about 9% higher. In both contexts, Young averaged about 4.7 WAR per 200 innings pitched. In others words, in the total scheme of things, inning for inning, he was basically as effective in one context as he was the other.
 
Here's another look......below are Young's best seasons, arranged by WAR per 200 innings pitched so that they can be more easily compared. As you can see, his best seasons as figured by this rate pretty much alternates between Boston and Cleveland. His years in Cleveland tended to be a bit higher in total WAR, but that's in part attributable to the higher innings pitched totals in Cleveland (he averaged starting about 4 extra games and about 32 innings a year in Cleveland vs. Boston)
 
Conclusion - Young was pretty damn good wherever he pitched.
 
Year
Age
Tm
Lg
WAR
IP
WAR/200 IP
1901
34
BOS
AL
12.6
371.1
6.8
1895
28
CLV
NL
12.0
369.2
6.5
1908
41
BOS
AL
9.4
298.1
6.3
1892
25
CLV
NL
13.9
453.0
6.1
1893
26
CLV
NL
11.2
422.2
5.3
1902
35
BOS
AL
9.7
384.2
5.0
1904
37
BOS
AL
9.2
380.0
4.8
1896
29
CLV
NL
9.9
414.1
4.8
1894
27
CLV
NL
9.5
408.2
4.7
1907
40
BOS
AL
7.6
343.1
4.4
1905
38
BOS
AL
7.1
321.0
4.4
1897
30
CLV
NL
7.4
335.2
4.4
1903
36
BOS
AL
6.8
341.2
4.0
1898
31
CLV
NL
6.7
377.2
3.6
1891
24
CLV
NL
6.6
423.2
3.1
1890
23
CLV
NL
1.7
147.2
2.3
1906
39
BOS
AL
2.0
287.0
1.4
 
`The second best pitcher for the Spiders was a fellow by the name of George Cuppy, who was a quality pitcher but who also had, shall we say, had a rather unfortunate nickname. I'll leave it to you to look it up if you're not already familiar with it.
 
If you look at individual pitcher seasons for the Spiders, of the 11 highest WAR figures, Cy Young had 8 of them, and the other 3 belonged to Cuppy:
 
Year
WAR
W
L
ERA
ERA+
IP
H
R
ER
BB
SO
1896
9.7
25
14
3.12
146
358
388
173
124
75
86
1895
7.8
26
14
3.54
140
353
384
210
139
95
91
1892
6.8
28
13
2.51
135
376
333
175
105
121
103
 
Over his 7 seasons with the Spiders, Cuppy went 140-80, 3.51, with a sparkling 129 ERA+.
 
The next best pitcher for Cleveland was Jack Powell, who is probably a name many of you know, although, similar to Wallace, you are probably more familiar with his post-Cleveland years with the St. Louis Browns. Like Wallace, Powell broke in with Cleveland in his early 20's, but moved over to St. Louis in the great dismantling of the Spiders before the 1899 season. Powell only pitched 2 seasons in Cleveland, but they were good ones - he went a combined 38-25 with a 3.06 ERA and a very good 128 ERA+.
 
One of the things that strikes me about Powell's career is that, like so many others, he's really not that far away from what could have been a Hall of Fame type of career. His "bulk" numbers are pretty good - he has a career rWAR of 55.5, and he had over 240 pitcher wins, although he did also have a career losing record, which I'm sure is one reason he never generated a lot of interest in Hall of Fame discussions. His 255 career pitching losses are the 8th highest in history. In an offshoot of the adage "it takes a pretty good pitcher to lose 20 games in a season", I think it's also fair to say that it takes a pretty good pitcher to lose 250 games in a career.  
 
Most career losses by a pitcher:
 
Player
W
L
Cy Young
511
315
Pud Galvin
365
310
Nolan Ryan
324
292
Walter Johnson
417
279
Phil Niekro
318
274
Gaylord Perry
314
265
Don Sutton
324
256
Jack Powell
245
255
Eppa Rixey
266
251
Bert Blyleven
287
250
 
9 Hall of Famers and Jack Powell. Was he as good as those others? No. But he was only able to accumulate that many losses because he was a pretty decent pitcher, who, unfortunately, spent most of his career with the Browns, a terrible team during most of Powell's existence (not to mention pretty terrible even beyond Powell's career).
 
I tried a little query inspired by Powell. I was interested in pitchers who might be classified as "unlucky". Now there are different ways to try and define that - one could examine run support, for example. I tried a very simple approach. I pulled pitchers who:
 
1) Had a career losing record
2) Had a better than league average ERA adjusted to ballpark (that is, career ERA+ greater than 100).
 
That seems like a reasonable basic premise to me - if a pitcher has a better-than-league average ERA but a worse-than-league average result (as measured by a less than .500 W-L-percent), that seems to imply some degree of poor luck, which could very well just imply being "unlucky" in terms of the quality of teams that he ended up on. 
 
I set a minimum of 2,000 innings pitched. The query returned 41 names. Here are the top 20 of those as sorted by WAR:
 
Player
WAR
IP
ERA
ERA+
W
L
W-L%
Jack Powell
54.8
4,389
2.97
106
245
255
.490
Theodore Breitenstein
51.8
2,973
4.03
110
160
170
.485
Bobo Newsom
51.3
3,759
3.98
107
211
222
.487
Jim Whitney
47.5
3,496
2.97
105
191
204
.484
Bob Friend
46.8
3,611
3.58
107
197
230
.461
Murry Dickson
43.0
3,052
3.66
109
172
181
.487
Tom Candiotti
42.3
2,725
3.73
108
151
164
.479
Danny Darwin
40.3
3,016
3.84
106
171
182
.484
Bill Dinneen
40.2
3,074
3.01
107
170
177
.490
Jon Matlack
38.9
2,363
3.18
114
125
126
.498
Pink Hawley
38.9
3,012
3.96
107
167
179
.483
Ned Garver
38.7
2,477
3.73
112
129
157
.451
Mark Gubicza
37.4
2,223
3.96
109
132
136
.493
Tom Zachary
37.4
3,126
3.73
107
186
191
.493
Bob Rush
36.5
2,410
3.65
110
127
152
.455
Bump Hadley
35.2
2,945
4.24
105
161
165
.494
Thornton Lee
35.0
2,331
3.56
119
117
124
.485
Fritz Ostermueller
34.3
2,066
3.99
109
114
115
.498
Ken Raffensberger
34.0
2,151
3.6
110
119
154
.436
Harry Howell
32.4
2,567
2.74
109
131
146
.473
 
I like this list, because I think a lot of the pitchers whose names you would expect to show up on something like this actually do show up. Bob Friend was a very good, workhorse type of pitcher, but pitched for some dreadful Pirates teams, and in fact one of the consistent themes I always heard about Friend as I would read references to his career was about how he deserved a much better fate. Bobo Newsom was a colorful character but, in my view, was also an underrated pitcher. He led the league in losses approximately 18 times. OK, that's an exaggeration - it was 4.   But he was a lot better pitcher than his W-L record implied, and he ended up on a lot of poor teams. Ned Garver carried the burden of pitching for some awful Browns teams. Everyone knew he deserved better. Pitching for the Browns in 1950, he had a league-leading 146 ERA+, but a 13-18 record.  Danny Darwin was a quality pitcher, good enough to win an ERA crown, but he is also high up on the list of pitchers who appeared in the most regular season games without ever appearing in the postseason (he's #6 with 716 games). Jon Matlack was a terrific pitcher with a reputation for being very talented, but I also remember hearing quite often during his career about how unlucky he was.   And, I suspect most of the other names on the list wouldn't surprise you.
 
As I was writing this, I was reminded that Bill actually did write an article on the unluckiest pitchers ever. 2 of the pitchers listed above (Matlack and Newsom) were also identified in Bill's article. Anyway, the point of all of this was to surmise that Powell, although he had a fine career, probably still deserved a better fate then the one he ended up with.
 
Speaking of pitchers that probably deserved a better fate, another Spiders pitcher, Jersey Bakley, has one of the ugliest W-L records in baseball history. Among pitchers with 200 or more career starts, there are only 4 with winning percentages of less than 400:
 
Player
W
L
W-L %
Egyptian Healy
78
136
.364
Milt Gaston
97
164
.372
Jack Russell
85
141
.376
Jersey Bakley
76
125
.378
Si Johnson
101
165
.380
Jack Fisher
86
139
.382
Stump Weidman
101
156
.393
 
To carry this theme a little further, in his 2 seasons with the Blues/Spiders, Bakley posted a 2.97 ERA and 116 ERA+, but only managed a 37-55 (.402) record.
 
Speaking of carrying themes, there's yet another Hall of Famer (our 6th overall in this review) who, like Wallace, Davis, and Ewing, made his mark mostly with other franchises, but pitched well enough to earn a spot on the Spiders all-time roster. John Clarkson was one of the top pitchers of the 1880's and early 1890's, going 304-151, 2.63 with a 136 ERA+ over his first 10 seasons, mostly for Chicago (NL) and Boston (NL). He was a "black ink" machine, posting an impressive figure of 60, which is the 20th highest in history. He led the league in various times in wins, ERA, games, shutouts, innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA+, and several other categories.
 
Clarkson was released by Boston in mid-season 1892 (his age 30 season) in what appears to have been a cost cutting measure and caught on with Cleveland. He went 17-10, 2.55 (133 ERA+) over the balance of the season, but 1893 was a tough year as Clarkson apparently didn't deal real well with the push back of the pitching distance from 55.5 feet to the new distance of 60.5 feet, going 16-17 with a 4.45 ERA (109 ERA+)   Well, it's probably more accurate to say that most pitchers didn't deal real well with it, as the league ERA shot up from 3.28 in 1892 to 4.66 in 1893, a 42% jump. Clarkson was still a better-than-league-average pitcher, but he seemed to be losing ground.   Clarkson posted one more partial season with Cleveland that, again, wasn't too bad in context (8-10, 4.42 ERA but a nice 123 ERA+), but was traded mid-year to Baltimore and refused to report, which marked the end of his career. Clarkson's 3 years with Cleveland added up to 41-37 with a 3.78 ERA and a nice 118 ERA+. Clarkson ranks 5th on the Spiders all-time list in wins.
 
Shortening the review some, other pitchers who would make my roster include:
 
Ed Beatin (a lefty), 42-48, 3.78, 99 ERA+
Zeke Wilson, 49-39, 3.95, 108 ERA+
Henry Gruber, 24-38, 3.95, 93 ERA+
Cinders O'Brien, 33-36, 3.79, 97 ERA+
Lee Viau, 22-27, 3.17, 109 ERA+
 
Also, we have to remember that our starting third baseman, Bobby Wallace, is available for duty. Wallace went 24-22, 3.89, with a 125 ERA+ over 3 seasons at the beginning of his career.
 
And, that's basically our pitching staff. No true closer, of course (Young had 8 saves, Cuppy had 4, and no one else had more than 1). Beatin is the only lefty, as there were slim pickings on that front.
 
Player
WAR
W
L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
SO
ERA
Cy Young
79.0
240
135
3,353
3,487
1,731
1,155
724
1,014
3.10
George Cuppy
34.9
140
80
1,912
2,099
1,135
745
545
434
3.51
Jack Powell
11.7
38
25
567
573
271
193
174
154
3.06
John Clarkson
6.3
41
37
689
766
481
289
213
181
3.78
Jersey Bakley
9.7
37
55
837
814
490
276
234
317
2.97
Zeke Wilson
9.5
49
39
811
970
500
356
239
190
3.95
Ed Beatin
8.1
42
48
821
873
523
345
348
285
3.78
Bobby Wallace
6.1
24
22
400
466
266
173
156
119
3.89
Cinders O'Brien
5.6
33
36
605
590
378
255
266
257
3.79
Henry Gruber
3.2
24
38
553
605
383
243
213
153
3.95
Lee Viau
2.5
22
27
451
473
309
159
181
160
3.17
 
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your all-time Cleveland Spiders team.  
 
In conclusion, I'm hoping arachnophobia is no more, that Cleveland fans don't suffer from fears of the last Spiders season all those years ago, and that this exposure therapy helps pave a path to a second chance for the Spiders to re-emerge in modern day Cleveland. 
 
Thanks for reading,
 
Dan
 
 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (7 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
Being one who's into the sound of a word more than anything else, I'd suggest Engines.
BTW I would fully expect the motion to fail for lack of a second. :-)
10:17 PM Jul 21st
 
billsizer
The article does a fine job of rescuing the name Spiders from infamy. Indians is still much to be preferred in my view.
8:46 PM Jul 21st
 
W.T.Mons10
I believe Jesse Burkett usually hit leadoff with Childs second. And none of those Cleveland teams you mention before 1915 went by any name other than Cleveland. Spiders and Blues and Naps etc. were just nicknames made up by newspaper reporters.
8:02 PM Jul 21st
 
Tanner_Boyle
I can't see why Redskins would be offensive. Go up and spend some time on the reservation.

Indians refer to themselves as 'skins.

So how is it offensive?

And which nation of Indians actually protested against this?

I mean, the ones that weren't paid to protest against it.

10:02 AM Jul 21st
 
steve161
I can see why "Redskins" would be offensive, but for the life of me I don't understand why "Indians" or "Braves" are. But I'm a white American of Ukrainian Jewish ancestry, so what do I know? It's not my place to tell another group what should or shouldn't be offensive.

I've long believed that a part of the secret of happiness is setting the bar really high when deciding what bends you out of shape. I don't seem to have won a lot of converts to this philosophy, however.
9:36 AM Jul 21st
 
malbuff
If the Indians are bullied into changing their perfectly good and historically significant name (it has none of the I'm-taking-offense connotations that doomed the Redskins), I believe they should revert to "Bluebirds." It was their original American League name, and was changed to "Naps" in honor of Lajoie. Of course, "Indians" itself is homage to Lou Sockalexis, who played for the team. And did I remind everyone that sports teams names are HONORIFICS, not pejoratives?

It occurs to me now that "Bluebirds" is awfully close to "Blue Jays," though they are two different types of bird. So maybe "Spiders", the old NL name, will prevail. Certainly the marketing tie-ins would be plentiful, and creatively humorous.
7:55 AM Jul 21st
 
DaveFleming
I 100% agree that the Spiders is the best route forward. It's a great team name, and one that links back to the history of baseball in Cleveland. And I appreciate the deep dive into a period of baseball history that I'm not nearly as versed in as I should be. Thanks, Daniel.
7:24 AM Jul 21st
 
 
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