The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Catfish Hunter”

Pitchers Who Tossed a Shutout and Earned a Save in the Same Season

In days of yore, before the set-up man, the LOOGY and the closer, you had pitchers.  Sometimes, these pitchers mostly started.  Sometimes, they mostly relieved.  Beyond that, there was often a great deal of flexibility regarding at what point a pitcher entered any particular game.

A bit like the uncle you grew up with who could remove an entire engine from a car, take down a gnarled old tree in his backyard, teach the neighborhood kids how to grip a curve-ball, and, in his spare time,  re-wire your house, pitchers of earlier generations were not above tossing a complete game one day, then coming in to pitch 1 2/3 innings of relief a couple of days later.

One thing I happened to notice while looking at the career stats of some pitchers from earlier generations is that several of them managed to toss a shutout and pick up a save in the same season.  At first blush, it might not seem to be that big a deal, but if you stop to consider how few pitchers today are used as “swing-starters,” pitchers who might be used as a fifth-starter, and who would pitch in relief in between, shutouts and saves are not a combination we are used to modern pitchers producing.

I have compiled an admittedly random list of pitchers who did earn a save in the same year they pitched a shutout.  Some of the names may surprise you.  Some of the pitchers may be men you’ve never heard of before.  Each of them demonstrated a flexibility that we don’t see much anymore.

1)  Tom Seaver – In Tom Terrific’s sophomore season, 1968, he made 35 starts and pitched 278 innings.  On July 7th, at Philadelphia, Seaver was tapped to close out the second game of a double-header.  With one runner already on base when he entered the game, Seaver struck out Dick Allen looking, then retired Johnny Callison and Tony Taylor on fly-balls.   It was the one and only save he recorded in his entire career.  That same season, Seaver hurled five shutouts.

Catfish, Billy, and Brad Gulden

Catfish, Billy, and Brad Gulden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2)  Jim “Catfish” Hunter – Oddly, 1968 was the year Catfish Hunter also recorded the only save in his career.  The first season the A’s were in Oakland (having moved from Kansas City), the 22-year old Hunter was already in his fourth Major League season.  Though Hunter had pitched a few games in relief in his first couple of seasons, by ’68, he was a regular starter in the A’s rotation.  Jack Aker led the A’s with only 11 saves that season, so the A’s didn’t really have a closer, per se’.  Hunter just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Incidentally, he also threw a couple of complete game shutouts that year.

3)  Bill Bonham – In 1974, 25-year old Cubs right-hander Bill Bonham led the N.L. with 22 losses.  He really wasn’t as bad as that.  His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was 3.12, while his actual ERA was 3.86.  In other words, he was particularly unlucky with balls in play.  Regardless, in addition to his 36 starts, of which he completed 10, he also appeared in eight games in relief.  He had already recorded a total of ten saves during the previous two years, but he would record his eleventh and final career save in the ’74 season.  His two shutouts in ’74 provide some indication that he was not a useless MLB pitcher, despite his 22 losses.

4)  Walter Johnson – For sixteen consecutive seasons (1908-23), Johnson recorded at least one save in each season, posting a high of four saves in 1915.  In each of those 16 years, he also recorded at least one shutout, tossing a career high of 11 in 1913.  In addition to his all-time record of 110 shutouts, he also saved 34 games.  For good measure, he belted at least one home run in 12 of those sixteen seasons, hitting nearly as many home runs as he surrendered.  Oh, and he managed 41 career triples as well.

English: Baseball pitcher Rube Waddell in 1901

English: Baseball pitcher Rube Waddell in 1901 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5)  Rube Waddell – When not chasing fire trucks, being distracted by shiny objects or going fishing without telling anyone, Waddell started 36 games for the 1908 Browns, and made seven relief appearances as well.  In his last outstanding season, the 31-year old Waddell pitched five shutouts, and posted a 1.89 ERA.  He also saved three games, which led the team.  He also hit a homer in ’08, one more than he surrendered  the entire year.

6)  Lynn McGlothen – McGlothen pitched for several teams during the decade 1972-82, most successfully for the Cardinals, where he was named to the 1974 N.L. All Star team.  Used almost exclusively as a starter for the first seven years of his career, he landed on the Cubs for the ’78 season, and 1979, he was a swing-man, alternating between the bullpen and the rotation.  He completed six of 29 starts, posting a record of 13-14 along the way.  One of those complete games was a shutout, one of 13 he would pitch in his career.  That same season, he recorded the only two saves he would ever earn.  Three years later, at the end of the 1982 season, McGlothen was killed in a fire in a mobile home while visiting his girlfriend in his native Louisiana.   According to his New York Times obituary, she died when she ran in to save him after saving her daughters.  In his lifetime, it would have been the only save that truly mattered.

7)  Steve Barber – Barber was a very good pitcher for the Orioles during the early to mid 1960’s, winning a career high 20 games in 1963.  In 1961, he won 18 of 34 starts, leading the A.L. with eight shutouts.  He also appeared in three games in relief, saving one ballgame.  The previous season, he had saved two games while throwing one shutout.  After the ’61 season, despite playing for thirteen more years, he would never again toss a shutout and save a game in the same year, though he recorded more of each category in different subsequent seasons.

8)  Rollie Fingers –  It’s hard for me to think of Rollie Fingers as anything but a relief pitcher.  But even Mariano Rivera made ten starts (in his rookie season), so obviously things can change drastically, given enough time.  Fingers appeared in 944 games in his career, but started only 37 times.  About half of those starts (19) came in one year, 1970. Fingers tossed one shutout in eight starts in 1969, and one more shutout, again in eight starts, in 1971.  Those were the only two shutouts of his career.  He would save 12 and 17 games, respectively, during those two years, on his way to 341 saves for his career.

English: Phil Niekro signing an autograph in 1982.

English: Phil Niekro signing an autograph in 1982. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9)  Phil Niekro – In a way, Niekro was the Walter Johnson of his era.  What I mean by that is even though Niekro was generally the ace of the staffs on which he pitched for many years, his team was not afraid to use him in relief, even in save situations a surprising amount of times.  In fact, in eight seasons Niekro recorded at least one shutout and one save.  He recorded a high of nine saves in 1967, a season in which he made 20 starts and pitched in relief in 26 other games.  He tossed one shutout that season.  Several years later, in 1974, he threw a career high six shutouts in 39 starts, yet also managed to find the time to save one game.  In his 24-year career, Knucksie threw 45 shutouts and saved 29 games.

10)  Hoyt Wilhelm – Wilhelm didn’t throw his first shutout until he was already 35-years old, with the Orioles in 1958.  Earlier that same year, he also pitched for the Indians, where he was credited with five saves.  In 1960, still with the Orioles, he threw one more shutout, the last of his career, and saved seven games.  Already 37-years old at this point, his career wasn’t even half over.  Wilhelm would go on to record double-digit saves nine times over the next decade, on his way to over 1,000 appearances in relief.  By comparison, he started just 52 games, and recorded five career shutouts.

11)  Roy Halladay –  O.K., so there is at least one modern pitcher who recorded a shutout and a save in the same season.  In the second year of his career, 1999, Halladay pitched in 36 games, divided exactly evenly between starting and relieving.  He pitched one complete game shutout that year, and recorded the only save of his career.  After the 2001 season, Halladay would never pitch in relief again, making 390 starts in his career, and completing an impressive (for our era) 67 of them.  Twenty of those were shutouts.

12)  Bill Lee – In his first four seasons with the Red Sox, Lee was primarily a relief pitcher, managing just nine starts in his first 125 appearances.  Not necessarily the team’s closer, however, he also recorded just eight saves during those four years.  In 1973, however, Lee was a full-time member of the Red Sox starting rotation (supplanting the aforementioned Lynn McGlothen, who was traded to St. Louis.)  Lee made 33 starts, against just five relief appearances, pitching 18 complete games, including one shutout.  He also saved one game in those five relief appearances.  From that point on, Lee threw nine more shutouts in his career, and saved ten more games, on his way to a record of 119-90.

I’m sure you can come up with many more pitchers who recorded a save and a shutout in the same season at least once in their careers.  Let me know who you find.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Baseball Hall of Fame: A Qualitative Analysis – Final Thoughts

By my count, there are just over 200 former Major League baseball players in the Hall of Fame.  This does not count players who were eventually elected to The Hall not for what they did on the field, but for what they later did as coaches, managers, or even team owners.

Satchel Paige

Image via Wikipedia

I also did not count former Negro League players like Satchel Paige who, though he did spend some time in The Majors, is actually in The Hall primarily for his vast accomplishments as a Negro League pitcher.

After having written well over 15,000 words on this subject, I have come to several conclusions.

First, there is broad consensus on the top 40-50 players of all-time.  I don’t mean that you and I would come up with exactly the same list of players on such a list, just that if you polled a room-full of those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time on this stuff, our lists would not vary greatly.

So far, so good.

There are 23 players who have a career WAR over 100.  These are the shoo-ins.  There are another ten players who accumulated WAR between 90-99 in their respective careers (interestingly, this is one of the smallest cohort groups in the HOF.)

Among the players in the 90+ range include Christy Mathewson, Jimmie Foxx, and Al Kaline, so I think it’s probably safe to assume that expanding the Hall to at least the top 33 players would be acceptable to a reasonable person.

Yet, if we limit Hall membership to this elite group of 33 players to ensure that only the “best of the best” are included, we have slammed the door shut on Cal Ripkin, Jr., Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, George Brett, Nolan Ryan, and a dozen other players who generated 80-89.9 WAR in their careers.  And I know you’re not up for that, are you?

Now that I have strong-armed you into accepting the top 50 players, (as measured by WAR), into The Hall, I’m sure you feel like you can rest on your laurels here.  Just keep these 50 plaques in The Plaque Room in the HOF, and eliminate all the others.  Then you’ll have a TRUE Hall of Fame where only the best of the best are honored.

But we still have a couple of problems here (three actually.)  The first thing you might be forgetting is that baseball is constantly generating new players, some of whom are pretty damned good.  Albert Pujols, for example, is already approaching 90 WAR.  What happens when he is elected into The Hall?  To keep Hall membership exclusive by limiting it to just the 50 top players, whom do you then kick out of The Hall?  Wade Boggs?  Steve Carlton?  Good luck on that.

And Pujols won’t be the last player to top 80 career WAR in his career.

You also have another problem.  You still don’t have a catcher in the HOF.

WAR is tough on catchers (see Adam Darowski’s Hall of wWAR for more on this topic,) in large part because they just don’t play as often as other position players, and because the nature of the position takes a bigger toll on the human body, which tends to wear out faster than someone playing, say, first base.

Also, though this may be of lesser concern to you, there also aren’t any relief pitchers over 80.0 WAR in The Hall.

We can go on and on like this, adding now all players between 70-79 WAR (including Bench, Carew, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Mize, Robin Yount, etc,) and even dropping into the 60’s WAR (including Ernie Banks, Duke Snider, Tony Gwynn, Carlton Fisk, and some guy named Jackie Robinson, to name a few.)

Pick a random WAR cohort to eliminate, and I’ll tell you why you have a problem.  No players in the 40-49 range should be allowed, you state firmly, because now you’re shoving in guys with less than half the career WAR as the top couple of dozen players in The Hall.

English: Baseball pitcher Rube Waddell in 1901

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve got two words for you:  Sandy Koufax.  Or, if you prefer, Dizzy Dean.  How about Rube Waddell?  He only led his league in strikeouts six straight season.  Sure there are players in the 40+ WAR cohort who don’t belong in The Hall, but where’s the cutoff, exactly?

Meanwhile, in the 20+ and 30+ career WAR groups of HOF players, you have some of the best relief pitchers of all time, including Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers.  What should we do about them?

If we ignore WAR for these players, plus the players like Koufax and Dean who burned brightly for just a few short years, and players like Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Ryne Sandberg and Willie Stargell (each in the 50+ WAR cohort) whose reputations somehow don’t mesh with what we’d expect their WAR’s to be, we are left with a bit of a mess of a situation.

Sure, in general, the lower the WAR, the worse the player is, but there are enough exceptions to make us consider, perhaps, what this all means.

What exactly is it we’re trying to accomplish here?  When we say that we want only the best players in The Hall, do we mean that we simply want the players, regardless of our emotional connection to them, and despite what their historic legacy might be, who meet the standards of a mathematical formula (however well put together), or are we looking for something more here?

Catfish, Billy, and Brad Gulden

Image via Wikipedia

Catfish Hunter has one of the lowest career WAR of any starting pitcher in the HOF.  I concede, unconditionally, that he was an overrated pitcher who, if we wasn’t fortunate enough to have pitched for excellent A’s, then the Yankees teams in the ’70’s, he would have been more or less just another pitcher.

But I’m glad Catfish is in The Hall.  The fan in me just doesn’t give a rat’s ass what his WAR is (and I don’t consider myself a “traditionalist,” whatever the hell that means, when it comes to stats, either.)  I greatly respect modern statistical analysis, and I’m glad that I have a nice peg to hang my biases on when it suits me (WAR says Jack Morris doesn’t belong in The Hall, so screw him.)

Tommy McCarthy, Boston Reds, Albumen Print

Image via Wikipedia

None of this changes the fact, however, that there really are players in The Hall who don’t belong there.  We could probably even agree on several of them.  I would take out Lloyd Waner, Tommy McCarthy, Freddie Lindstrom, Herb Pennock, and Dave Bancroft before breakfast tomorrow morning.  But they’re there, and I guess they’re not going anywhere.

Meanwhile, short of taking the vote away from the BBWAA and from the Veteran’s Committee (which has largely stopped electing former players just about all together anyway), what is to be done about Hall voting now and on into the future?  How do we eliminate mistakes, and get back to the Golden Age of the Hall of Fame?

Here’s the good news.  If it is exclusivity you seek, we are already swiftly sauntering down that street.  Here’s the evidence.

In each decade since the 1970’s, inductions of former MLB players into The Hall has declined for four straight decades.  The number of players inducted into the HOF in each of the past four decades is as follows:

1970’s – 36  (one of the worst decades in terms of quality of players inducted in history.)

1980’s – 29

1990’s – 24

2000’s (including 2011 inductees) – 22

And this is without yet knowing how the steroids controversy will affect several (otherwise obvious) potential HOF’ers like Bonds, Clemens, etc.  Almost certainly, in the very near future, there will be a huge backlog of historically significant players not in The Hall that will rival the untapped talent available to the first HOF election committees back in the 1930’s.  Whether this is a good thing or a tragic situation depends on your point of view.

But one thing’s for sure.  No one will be able to argue that too many mediocre players are being elected into The Hall.

Although no group of humans, and no statistical formulas, will probably ever solve the puzzle of how to create a “perfect” Hall of Fame, I believe that if you are looking for a time when there was something resembling a Golden Age for the HOF, you can stop looking.

We may already be there.

Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff – Part IV

The Blues Brothers (film)

Image via Wikipedia

This is the fourth installment of an ad-hoc series called “Baseball, and Other Stuff.”  If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you know how this works.  If you are just joining us,  settle in.  You’ll get the idea.

Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army
Part of the first Anglo-Afghan War, 1839–1842
Last-stand.jpg
The last stand of the survivors of Her Majesty’s 44th Foot at Gandamak

 

Overrated:  Ryan Howard – Sure, his home run and RBI totals over the past five years have been remarkable.  But, consider, his walk totals have declined steadily over the past five years (108, 107, 81, 75, 59.)  In only two of his seasons has his WAR exceeded 4.0.  By contrast, Albert Pujols‘ LOWEST single season WAR was 5.8.  And Howard has struck out in 27% of his plate appearances, a staggering total.  Finally, only once in the past three years has his on-base percentage touched .360.  At age 30, he has probably seen his best days.

Underrated:  Miguel Cabrera – Has been playing in the shadow of Albert Pujols his whole career.  Otherwise, Cabrera might be considered the greatest player in the game today.  Still only 27-years old, he has already produced seven excellent seasons.  He has driven in over a hundred runs in all but his first half-season, and has only once failed to score over a hundred runs in a year.  His career line is:  .313, .388, .552 with an OPS of .939.  His career OPS+ is 145, good for 45th place all-time, higher than Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Mathews.

Overrated:  Custer’s Last Stand – June, 1876.  Lt. Col. Custer’s entire command was wiped out (268 killed) at the Little Bighorn River, by a combined force of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors.  Within a year, most of the Indians had been forced back onto reservations, were killed, or had fled with Sitting Bull to Canada.

Underrated:  Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army – January, 1842.  Afghanistan (road from Kabul to Jalalabad.)  After an uprising in the city of Kabul, fomented by Akbar Khan, forced the British / Indian troops and camp followers (16,500 strong) out of Kabul, they attempted to reach safety 90 miles away at the British garrison at Jalalabad.  But soon after they set out, the slaughter began.  Near the end, fewer than 40 British regulars of the 44th regiment of foot were all that was left.  Surrounded by Pashtun tribesmen, their surrender was requested, to which a British sergeant reportedly declared, “Not bloody likely.”

Of the original 16,500 men, women and children that evacuated Kabul, only one British medical officer and a few Indian sepoys survived to tell the tale.

Overrated:  Jim “Catfish” Hunter – A colorful character and a tough competitor, but does he really belong in the Hall of Fame?  He did win 20 games or more for five straight seasons, but, excepting win totals, he had just three truly outstanding seasons in his entire career:  1972, ’74, ’75.  He never struck out 200 batters in a season.  He was extremely durable (200+ innings pitched) ten seasons in a row, and he kept his walks to a minimum.  But his career ERA+ was just 105, meaning that taking his career as a whole, he was just 5% better than your average replacement level pitcher.

Underrated:  Pedro Martinez – Will eventually make the Hall of Fame once he becomes eligible, but some writers, perhaps most, will not view Pedro as a first round HOF candidate (as if that matters) because he won just 219 games in his career.  I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that most baseball fans / writers, bloggers, etc., view Pedro as a top 25 all-time pitcher who, unfortunately, didn’t last long enough to make an even greater impression on the minds of the baseball masses.

But let’s take another look at Pedro Martinez’ career.  He was an eight time all-star who won five ERA titles, six WHIP titles, three Cy Young awards (while finishing 2nd twice and third once), whose career WAR of 75.9 is 23rd all-time.

Pedro also posted nine 200 strikeout seasons, including two 300-hundred K seasons.

But those are his LEAST impressive statistics.  Pedro also posted a career WHIP of 1.054 (fifth best ever) and struck out 10.04 batters per nine innings (3rd best ever.)  His strikeouts per walks ratio was 4.15 (3rd best ever.)

Pedro Martinez made 409 career starts, and was defeated just 100 times.  He never lost more than ten games in a season, and he was defeated 1o times in a season just twice in 18 years.  His .687 career win-loss percentage is 6th best all-time.  Pedro struck out 3,154 batters in just 2,827 innings pitched.

Most impressively, however, Pedro Martinez enjoyed his success  in a hitter’s era in mostly friendly hitter’s parks (especially Fenway Park.)  Very few pitchers in baseball history have managed to top an ERA+ (which takes into consideration a pitchers era and home ballpark) of 200.  For the sake of context, Lefty Grove, Bob Gibson and Pete Alexander each reached that plateau just once in their respective careers.  Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Tom Seaver never posted an ERA+ of 200 in any single season.

Christy Mathewson reached that lofty number twice.  Roger Clemens touched that number three times, but two of those years are tainted by alleged PED usage.  Walter Johnson, widely regarded as the best pitcher who ever lived, topped an ERA+ of 200 an astonishing four times.

Pedro Martinez reached that pinnacle five times.

Pedro’s career ERA+ of 154 is pretty damn good.  How good?  Well, since you ask, it’s THE BEST EVER for a starting pitcher.

In other words, folks, from 1997-2003, not only wasn’t there a better pitcher in baseball, but there may never have been a better pitcher in the history of baseball.

Overrated:  The Everley Brothers – Here are some lyrics to their hit single “Cathy’s Clown“, released in 1962:

“When you see me shed a tear, and you know that it’s sincere, Doncha think its kinda sad, that you’re treatin’ me so bad?  Or don’t you care…?

Egad man, grow a spine!

Underrated:  The Blues Brothers:

Overrated:  Dave Winfield – Nice overall life-time numbers, 3,000+ hits, 1,800+ RBI’s, 465 home runs… no one’s saying that he sucked.  And he gets extra points for being tailed by a private investigator at the behest of Herr Steinbrenner in the ’80’s. But his career line of .283, .353, .475 is not spectacular.  Nor is his .827 career OPS, or his OPS+ of 130.  Each of these numbers are rather on the low side for a HOF outfielder.

Underrated:  Jimmy Wynn – Jimmy (Toy Cannon) Wynn broke into the big leagues in 1963 at the age of 21, and retired fifteen-years later at the age of 35.  For most of his career, he played in pitchers’ parks in a heavily dominant pitcher’s era.  Despite these handicaps, Wynn was an offensive force in the N.L.  In 1965, at age 23, Wynn stole 43 bases while being caught just four times.  He also drew 84 walks, scored 90 runs, hit 30 doubles and 22 homers, and logged an OPS+ of 144.

In 1967, despite leading the league in strikeouts, Wynn clubbed 37 homers, drove in 107, scored 102 and stole 16 bases.  In ’68, he led the league in offensive WAR at 7.7.

In 1969, Wynn led the league with a huge total of 148 walks, resulting in a .436 on-base percentage.  He also slammed 33 homers and scored 113 runs.  His .943 OPS was good for sixth in the league.  His OPS+ of 166 was a career high, and was fourth best in the senior circuit.

In 1974, Wynn was traded to the Dodgers, made the All-Star team and finished fifth in the N.L. MVP voting at age 32.  He drew 108 walks, drove in 108 runs, and scored 104 runs.  He slugged 32 homers, and finished with an OPS+ of 151.

In his career, Wynn drew over a hundred walks six times, scored 90 or more runs six times, hit at least 25 homers five times, and posted a career OPS+ of 128, the same as Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Goose Goslin…and Jim Rice.

And, perhaps most ironically, considering Jimmy Wynn is not in the HOF, and Dave Winfield is…

Jimmy Wynn’s career WAR: 59.8.

Dave Winfield’s career WAR: 59.7.

That’s all for today, boys and girls.  As for me, I’m done here until after Christmas, so check back in sometime between Christmas and (overrated) New Year’s. Until then, enjoy the holidays.

Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons: Part 22 – The Texas Rangers

1982 Topps Fergie Jenkins

Image via WikipediaIn our own American historical experience, Justice has often displayed herself with an ironic touch.

A century and a half ago, negro slaves were privy to a literal life-line that extended itself, like an index finger plowing a thin furrow through the dark soil of America, from South to North.

Canada was the goal.

Southern Ontario was the primary recipient.

Chatham-Kent, Ontario, is today one of the primary municipalities in the region where the descendants of runaway slaves still make their home.

In fact, Ontario has over 473,000 people of African descent within its boundaries, many of whom can trace their lineage back to ancestors who once toiled the fields of the southern U.S.A., from Texas to Florida.

One of these families produced a son whose birth resulted in his mother’s subsequent blindness, and whose own life would know personal tragedy as well.

This child would one day cross the border into the United States as an entertainer of sorts.  An athlete by trade, he would enjoy time performing with the Harlem Globetrotters, but would make his primary mark on baseball diamonds throughout country.

Signed in June, 1962 by the Phillies, Ferguson Jenkins would make his debut with the parent team on September 10, 1965.  He was traded to the Cubs in 1966.

From 1966 through 1973, Chicago Cubs ace Ferguson Jenkins was one of the most dominant pitchers in the Major Leagues.  A Black Canadian whose ancestors had left America for a life of freedom had returned to America to find fortune.

A look at Fergie Jenkins career numbers leaves one astonished.

Jenkins won at least twenty games every season for six consecutive years, from 1967-72, inclusive.  He tossed at least 20 complete games in every one of those seasons, topping out at an astonishing 30 complete games in 1971.

Five times in his career he topped 300 innings pitched.

During Jenkins’ 19-year career, he led his league in wins twice, starts three times, complete games four times, innings pitched once, strikeouts once, and WHIP once.  He gave up a huge number of home runs in his career (484), but usually minimized the damage by allowing very few walks.

Fergie Jenkins won the 1971 Cy Young award, and finished in the top three in votes received four other times.

But Fergie Jenkins’ Best Forgotten Baseball Season was 1974 with the Texas Rangers.

At the age of 31, in his first season after having been traded away by the Cubs for Vic Harris and Bill Madlock ( Madlock having been the subject of a prior blog-post of mine,) Jenkins showed he could teach the American League a thing or two about pitching while pitching his home games in a state that was once a battleground for slavery.

Jenkins won a career high 25 games in 1974 against just 12 defeats.  He made 41 starts and led the league with 29 complete games.  In 328 innings pitched, he struck out 225 batters while walking just 45.  His five strikeouts per walk topped the league.

Jenkins’ ERA was just 2.82, his WHIP reflected his few walks surrendered, 1.008, and his WAR was 7.6, better than any hitter in his league.

For his efforts, Jenkins finished second in the league in Cy Young voting, just behind Catfish Hunter.  Remarkably, they both finished with identical 25-12 records, both made 41 starts, and both hurled six shutouts.

While Jenkins pitched ten more innings and racked up 80 more strikeouts with one fewer walk, Hunter’s ERA was .33 lower, his WHIP was lower (0.986), and, of course, the A’s won their division.

Jenkins pitched two seasons for the Rangers before being traded to the Red Sox for two unremarkable years, then went back to the Rangers for four more seasons.  The Cubs brought Jenkins back for a last hurrah in 1982 and, at age 39, he made 34 starts, pitched 217 innings, and posted an ERA of 3.15.

The following season, at age 40, Jenkins pitched his last career shutout on June 10th, 1983 vs. the Cardinals.

Jenkins finished his career with 3,192 strikeouts, which ranks 12th all-time.  His 49 career shutouts ranks 21st.  His career WAR is 81.3, twentieth best in MLB history for pitchers.  His career win-loss record was 284-226.

In 1991, in his third year on the ballot, he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.   He was the first Canadian citizen to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Tragically, just three days after his induction into The Hall, his wife died from injuries sustained in a car accident.

Just two years later, Jenkins’ girlfriend committed murder-suicide, asphyxiating herself and Jenkins’ three-year old daughter.

Since then, Jenkins has married again, does promotional work for charitable organizations, and now owns a ranch in Arizona.  Now in his late sixties, Jenkins has experienced great success and terrible tragedy in a country his forebears once fled in terror.

America has done well to welcome Jenkins back.  That he has chosen to stay here suggests that history can be kind to those who forgive, if not forget.

Post Navigation