Saves, No-Hitters and Homers: Oh, My!
Consider this a follow-up to my last post.
Several of my readers made many fantastic additions to my previous list of players who had thrown a shutout and earned a save in the same season. One of my readers wondered how often a pitcher tossed a no-hitter, (as opposed to merely a shutout), and earned a save in the same campaign. So, of course, I did a little more research.
Let me say, once again, that I don’t pretend that my research here is necessarily comprehensive. I may have missed a few guys, but I hope not very many. Here are a couple of dozen pitchers who, at the very least, pitched a no-hitter and earned a save in the same season. As you’ll see, I broke them down into a bit more specific categories.
Also, I’m only going back as far as 1900. And no, chronological order doesn’t much interest me.
Pitchers Who Threw a No-Hitter and Earned a Save:
1) Nolan Ryan: Ryan pitched seven no-hitters in his career, four with the Angels. The first two of those no-hitters occurred in 1973. Also that same year, Ryan earned a save, one of just three he would record in his 27-year career.
2) Jeff Tesreau: Tesreau was an excellent rookie pitcher on the great 1912 New York Giants. He tossed his only career no-hitter that year, and earned a save.
3) Jim Bunning: Bunning threw two no-hitters in his career. The first one was when he was a member of the Tigers in 1958. His second no-hitter came against the Mets, while pitching for the Phillies, in 1964. He also earned a pair of saves in the 1964 season.
4) Chris Bosio: Bosio pitched the second no-hitter in the history of the Seattle Mariners franchise, in 1993. Later that same year, he also earned a save.
5) Hooks Wiltse: Wiltse, a left-handed pitcher out of Hamilton, NY, enjoyed his finest season in 1908, recording a 23-14 record for the Giants. He no-hit the Phillies on the 4th of July that season, one of his career-high seven shutouts on the year, and recorded a couple of saves along the way that season. In his career, he threw 27 shutouts and earned 33 saves.
6) Dean Chance: On August 25, 1967, Dean Chance of the Minnesota Twins defeated the Cleveland Indians on the road by the score of 2-1. Oddly, Chance actually pitched a complete game no-hitter that day, but his five walks, a wild pitch and an error by Twins third baseman Cesar Tovar led to the lone Indians run in the first inning. Tovar later scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning on a balk by Indians pitcher Sonny Siebert. Chance also acquired one save in ’67.
7) Allie Reynolds: If there is such a thing as an underrated Yankee, I submit Allie Reynolds as Exhibit A. Reynolds tossed a pair of no-hitters in the 1951 season, about ten weeks apart. Already 34-years old that season, Reynolds won 17 games for the Yanks in ’51, leading the A.L. with seven shutouts. He also recorded seven saves that same year. In 1952, he led the A.L. in ERA (2.06), won twenty games, and led the league, again, with six shutouts. He matched those six shutouts by registering six saves.
8) Gaylord Perry: Facing Bob Gibson in Gibson’s unbelievable ’68 season (1.12 ERA), Perry actually bested him by no-hitting Gibson’s St. Louis Cardinals. (How would you like to have been anywhere near Bob Gibson in the Cardinal’s clubhouse after that game?) Perry also earned a save that year. He didn’t hit a homer in ’68, but he did hit exactly one homer in ’69, ’70, ’71 and ’72.
9) Carl Hubbell: In just his second Major League season, Hubbell tossed the only no-hitter of his fine career, an 11-0 victory over the Pirates at the Polo Grounds in 1929. He also saved a game that year.
10) Paul Dean: Like Jeff Tesreau 22 years earlier, Paul (Daffy) Dean, (brother of Dizzy Dean), pitched a no-hitter in his rookie season (1934.) Paul won 19 games in each of his first two Major League seasons, then won just 12 more in his career. He also saved two games in 1934.
11) Dutch Leonard: Leonard tossed a pair of no-hitters in the early years of the Boston Red Sox, one in 1916 and one in 1918. In addition to his six shutouts in ’16, he also saved half a dozen games.
12) Carl Erskine: “Oisk” tossed a couple of no-hitters for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the first one in 1952 and the second one in 1956. In ’52, he also saved two games, but he saved none in ’56. His one career homer came in 1955.
13) Jimmy Lavender: Nope, I’d never heard of him before, either. Lavender was a decent pitcher on a mediocre Cubs team in 1915, but he did have one big day. He fired a no-hitter against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, defeating them 2-0. Former Giant Roger Bresnahan was his catcher, and his manager. Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem was behind the plate. Lavender also earned four saves in ’15.
Those Who Did a Bit More: A no-hitter, a save, and a home run (or two.)
14) Bob Feller: Feller hurled three no-hitters in his legendary career. The first one occurred on Opening Day, 1940 (the only Opening Day no-hitter in MLB history.) His second no-hitter was in 1946, after he arrived home from WWII. His third and final no-hitter was recorded in 1951. Feller also earned four saves in both 1940 and ’46. In 1940, Feller also slugged two home runs. He was one of only six pitchers on this list to toss a no-hitter, earn a save and hit a home run in the same year.
15) Walter Johnson: You might think 1920 was one of Johnson’s best years because he accomplished what Feller did, pitching a no-hitter, earning three saves and hitting a home run that season. But 1920 was otherwise a rare bad year for Johnson, as he posted just an 8-10 record. A fine hitting pitcher, he slugged 24 homers in his career.
16) Smoky Joe Wood: As a 21-year old stud on the Red Sox in 1911, Joe Wood would pitch a no-hitter and save three games. The following year, he would enjoy his legendary 34-5 season, leading the Red Sox to a World Series triumph over the Giants. Oh, and he also hit a pair of homers in ’11, and two more in ’12.
17) Lew Burdette: The best player ever to come out of Nitro High School, West Virginia, Milwaukee Braves pitcher Burdette pitched a no-hitter on August 18, 1960 against the Phillies, winning by a score of 1-0. Burdette also led the N.L. with 18 complete games, won 19 games, saved four games, and hit two home runs in 1960.
18) Warren Spahn: That same 1960 season, Burdette’s teammate, Warren Spahn, virtually matched Burdette’s trifecta. Spahn pitched the first of his two career no-hitters at age 39, saved a pair of games, and hit three homers.
19) Phil Niekro: Thirteen years after Burdette and Spahn, Atlanta Brave Phil Niekro did his best to emulate those Braves pitchers of the previous generation. Though 1973 wasn’t one of Niekro’s very best seasons, he did toss the one and only no-hitter of his career, (his only shutout of 1973), recorded four saves, and even hit one of his seven career home runs.
One of a Kind: a perfect game and a save.
20) Addie Joss: On October 2, 1908, Joss pitched the second perfect game in American League history. It came against the Chicago White Sox. He also earned two saves that season. Less than two years later, in April of 1910, he again no-hit the White Sox. He won both games by the score of 1-0. Almost exactly one year later, on April 14, 1911, Joss died of meningitis. Until Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum no-hit the Padres last week for the second time in his career, Joss had been the only pitcher in history to toss two no-hitters against one team.
From Another Dimension: a perfect game, a no-hitter, saves and homers.
21) Sandy Koufax: Koufax was the first pitcher to throw four no-hitters. He tossed one each over four consecutive seasons beginning in 1962. His final no-hitter in ’65 was also a perfect game. In ’62, in addition to his first no-hitter, he also saved a game and hit a home run. In ’63, he threw a no-hitter, won 25 games, and hit a homer. In ’64, he threw a no-hitter and saved a game, but didn’t hit a homer. In ’65, Koufax enjoyed his perfect game, saved two additional games, but did not hit a home run. All in all, not a bad four-year stretch.
All That, and a Bag of Chips: A perfect game, a save, and a home run.
22) Cy Young: Like Bob Feller, Cy Young recorded three no-hitters in his career. He tossed his first one in 1897, his second one in 1904, and his last one in 1908. But his ’04 no-hitter was also a perfect game. He earned a save as well in ’04, and a couple of more saves in ’08. In ’04, he also hit a home run.
23) Jim “Catfish” Hunter: Before he was Catfish, he was just a young phenom pitcher named Jim Hunter. In 1968, he actually matched Cy Young’s ’04 performance. Hunter tossed a perfect game, earned a save, and hit a home run. Young and Hunter are the only two pitchers I’m aware of who accomplished this feat in one year.
If you can find more pitchers to add to this list, O Faithful Readers, I welcome any and all additions. I’m sure there are a few more out there.
Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons: Part 20 – The Minnesota Twins
Image via Wikipedia
As with the late comedian, Rodney Dangerfield, twenty-win seasons just don’t get no respect anymore. Case in point: This season, C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees has 21 victories.
Meanwhile, a continent away, Felix Hernandez of the Mariners has just thirteen wins. Yet many, perhaps most, baseball analysts / commentators are arguing that King Felix should win the A.L. Cy Young award on the strength of his peripheral numbers.
This is not the time nor the place to debate that argument, but it is worth noting that just a couple of short years ago, a twenty-win season was considered something special.
And despite my strong sympathies to the Wins-Are-Overrated crowd, I can’t help feeling that wins (as a measure of a pitcher’s relative effectiveness) have all too quickly gone from overrated to underrated.
While it is true that over the course of baseball history, some pitchers have won far more games in a single season than they “deserved,” (Storm Davis‘ 1989 season comes to mind), and others have won far fewer than they theoretically should have (Nolan Ryan in 1987), it has been far more common for outstanding pitchers to win lots of games, and for mediocre pitchers to garner average amounts of wins.
Which brings me to former Minnesota Twins pitcher Frank Viola.
Frank Viola, drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 1981 amateur draft out of St. John’s University, certainly was respected by most Major League batters for the vast majority of his professional career.
Unappreciated by many baseball fans then and now, however, Viola averaged 18.6 wins per season for five consecutive years (1984-88, inclusive.) He also pitched at least 200 innings for ten consecutive seasons beginning in 1983, and tossed at least 230 innings in nine of those ten years.
Viola also enjoyed two twenty-win seasons in his career. His first was in 1988 with the Twins. He also won exactly twenty games for the Mets in his first full season with that franchise in 1990.
But Frank Viola’s Best Forgotten Season was in 1988 with the Minnesota Twins.
In 1988, 28-year old Frank Viola won the A.L. Cy Young award. He did not lead the league in strikeouts, innings pitched, WAR, WHIP, ERA+, or even that hoary old stat, ERA (although he did finish in the top six or better in each of them.)
His primary claim to fame, however, was an outstanding 24-7 record, good for a league-leading .774 win-loss percentage. As for his peripheral numbers, teammate Allan Anderson won the A.L. ERA title (2.45) and ERA+ title (166), but he pitched fifty fewer innings than Viola.
Roger Clemens paced the league in strikeouts, Complete Games, and Shutouts. Teddy Higuera of Milwaukee led the A.L. in WHIP. Dave Stewart of Oakland led in Games Started and Innings Pitched. Mark Gubicza of K.C. led in WAR.
When you have that many outstanding performances in one season, it is (or was) unsurprising that the Cy Young voters would notice the impressive number of wins Viola accumulated in a very solid season.
For the record, Viola finished third in the league in strikeouts (193), third in ERA (2.64), sixth in innings pitched (255), and fifth in WHIP (1.136.)
Viola retired after the 1996 season with a record of 176-150. His career ERA was a decent 3.73.
It is also worth noting that, over the past 22 years, only three other pitchers have matched or exceeded Viola’s 24 victories in ’88: Bob Welch (27) in 1990; John Smoltz (24) in 1996; Randy Johnson (24) in 2002. Welch was a good pitcher. Smoltz and Johnson are future Hall of Famers.
Meanwhile, you also have to go all the way back to Steve Stone of the 1980 Orioles to find a pitcher who exceeded (25 wins) Viola’s win total eight seasons later.
Clearly, then, a pitcher’s win total is not, as some pundits have claimed recently, absolutely irrelevant.
It is a sensible, if imprecise and incomplete, benchmark by which we can gauge a given pitcher’s success to a reasonable degree.
After all, isn’t it more than a bit ironic that it is now argued that win totals should be irrelevant when deciding to whom the trophy for baseball’s best pitchers should be awarded, when that award just happens to be named after Cy Young, the pitcher who won more games than any other player in Major League history?
Surely, even Rodney Dangerfield would feel the implicit disrespect to Cy Young’s legacy.