Top Ten Pitchers Who Never Won 20 Games
Whether it’s fair or not, a 20-win season has long been regarded as a mark of excellence for a pitcher. Up until perhaps the past decade or so, an ace pitcher was expected to win at least 20 games in a season. Anything less than that was considered a bit of a disappointment, regardless of how strong that pitcher’s other stats may have been. This led me to wonder which of the best pitchers in MLB history (using WAR as a career measure of success) never enjoyed a 20-win campaign.
I decided to exclude currently active pitchers as well as, for obvious reasons, pitchers who worked primarily in relief during their careers. Here’s what I came up with:
1) Chuck Finley (L): 200-173, WAR: 58.5
2) Frank Tanana (L): 240-236, WAR: 57.5
3) Dave Stieb (R): 176-137, WAR: 57.0
4) Kevin Appier (R): 169-137, WAR: 55.0
5) Kenny Rogers (L): 219-156, WAR: 51.1
6) Mark Langston (L): 179-158, WAR: 50.3
7) Dennis Martinez (R): 245-193, WAR: 49.5
8) Jimmy Key (L): 186-117, WAR: 49.4
9) Milt Pappas (R): 209-164, WAR: 46.8
10) Steve Rogers (R): 158-152, WAR: 45.3
As you can see, if you came of age as a baseball fan around the 1980’s, you’ll be quite familiar with many of these names. Only a couple of the pitchers on this list go back much further than that, with Milt Pappas apparently being the “old-timer” on this list.
Exactly half the pitchers on this list were southpaws, and two guys named Rogers are represented as well. Each of the first eight guys on the list pitched either primarily or exclusively in the American League. Milt Pappas split his career almost evenly between the two leagues, and Steve Rogers is the only pitcher on this list to have pitched exclusively in the National League.
Half of these pitchers won at least 200 games, and all finished with records above .500. Only three of the pitchers on this list reached 19 wins in a season: Langston (twice), Tanana, and Steve Rogers.
In their prime, each of these pitchers was very tough, and if any of them had pitched on consistently better teams, or were a bit luckier, they might not have appeared on this list at all.