In the initial post, I only covered those from 1950-2012. Now I will examine the rest. The list is below.
|1927||STL||Grover Cleveland Alexander|
|1914||PHA||Bullet Joe Bush|
|1913||BOS||Smoky Joe Wood|
Now this is filled with legends: Young, Ruth, Alexander, Grove, Hubbell, Feller. Also included are Smoky Joe Wood, Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez and Hal Newhouser.
Guys like Dutch Ruether, Bullet Joe Bush and the rhyming duo of George Mogridge and Vic Aldridge had unspectacular careers but very solid peaks of three-to-five years that keep them out of consideration for the bottom spot.
Here are those "contenders":
Ted Wilks (1945 STL)
Hank Borowy (1944 NYY)
Flint Rhem (1932 STL)
George Pipgras (1929 NYY)
Hugh McQuillan (1923 NYG)
Nick Altrock (1907 CWS)
Here they are listed by their average seasonal Baseball Reference WAR (Career WAR, ERA+):
|Avg bWAR||Career bWAR||Career ERA+|
Wilks, a wartime standout for the Cardinals, is included because his career bWAR was so low. I had never heard of him and was intrigued to see that he was one of the early star relief specialists. In 1944 he went 17-4 with a 2.64 ERA and league-leading 1.07 WHIP. He helped the Cards take down the Browns in the All-Saint Louis World Series, closing out the clinching sixth game by going 11 up, 11 down though the last three and two-thirds innings. He and Bobby Jenks are the only pitchers to close out a World Series in their debut season. He was tabbed with the Opening Day start in '45 before he shifted to a bullpen role in 1946, winning all eight decisions that year. In 1949 and 1951 he led the National League in both saves and appearances. Over his last six seasons, from 1948-53, he registered a 121 ERA+.
Borowy had a fine rookie season for the Yankees in 1942, going 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA that ranked fifth in the league. His year ended on a sour note as he was drilled for six runs in three innings in Game Four of the World Series against St. Louis, the eventual champs. He exacted revenge the next year, pitching a gem in Game Three of the Fall Classic to snap a 1-1 tie with the Redbirds and help lead New York to the championship. He averaged 3.0 bWAR for his first three seasons, but the Yankees surprisingly sold him to the Cubs in July 1945. The move angered Yankees skipper Joe McCarthy and was reportedly a key factor in his resignation.
Borowy went 11-2 with a 2.13 ERA down the stretch (think Rick Sutcliffe in 1984) as the pickup helped the Cubs hold off St. Louis for the '45 pennant. In the World Series against the Tigers, he pitched a six-hit shutout in the opener and lost Game Five. He came back the next day and worked four innings in relief, getting the win when Stan Hack doubled home the game winner in the 12th. But Charlie Grimm went back to him after an off day to pitch Game Seven. The gassed ace allowed three singles to start the game and was quickly removed. All three came around to score as Detroit scored five runs in the first inning en route to the title. The Cubs have not been to the World Series since. Borowy is unique in that he is the last Cub to both win and lose a World Series game.*
*For a long time, he was the only player to win ten games in a season in both the American and National Leagues. In '45 he was 10-5 with the Yanks and 11-2 with the Cubs. Bartolo Colon joined him in 2002 when he went 10-4 with both the Indians and the Expos. For more on Borowy, this is a great bio on the SABR website.
Pipgras earned the 1929 starting nod for the defending champion Yankees after winning Game Two of World Series sweeps in 1927 and 1928, against the Pirates and Cardinals, respectively. He had a particularly strong 1928 season, as he ran up a 4.2 bWAR and led the AL in wins (24) and innings (300.2).*
*The last pitcher to throw 300 innings in a season was Steve Carlton of the 1980 Phillies
Starting with that 1929 opener, Pipgras went 67-53 with an ERA+ of an even 100. He pitched in one other World Series game and it's a famous one. He was the winning pitcher of Game Three in 1932 at Wrigley Field, the day that Babe Ruth may or may not have called his shot. He closed out his career with the Red Sox and became a minor league umpire after retiring, reaching the majors and working the American League circuit from 1939 to 1946.
McQuillan came up with the Braves and after he posted an ERA+ of 90 over his first four and a half seasons, Boston dealt him to the crosstown rival Giants in July 1922. The right-hander was serviceable down the stretch with a 106 ERA+, but really stepped up in the World Series. In Game Four, with the Giants up 2-0 on the Yankees (Game Two ended in a tie), he turned in a complete-game 4-3 victory that put the Giants one win from the title. They clinched the next day. He got the Opening Day start in 1923 and contributed solid seasons in '23 and '24, winning 29 games with a 122 ERA+. 89 percent of his career bWAR was run up over these two years (6.6 of 7.4). He followed with three lackluster seasons and finished his career back with the Braves.
In 1932 St. Louis Cardinal Flint Rhem, like George Mogridge of the '25 Senators, was sent to another team after starting on Opening Day for the defending champions. He led the NL in wins in 1926 with 20 as the Cards beat the Yankees in the World Series.*
*Rhem surrendered two home runs to Babe Ruth in Game Four of the '26 Series. After Rhem left the game, Ruth connected for another one off Hi Bell to become the first player to hit three home runs in a World Series contest. Ruth would do it again at Sportsman's Park in Game Four of the '28 Series as the Yanks rolled to a sweep. Of course, Ruth has since been joined by Reggie Jackson ('77 GM 6) and Albert Pujols ('11 GM 3)
Rhem, a drinking companion of Hall of Fame teammate Grover Cleveland Alexander, put up a decent 110 ERA+ from 1926-28 and from 1930-32. In the middle of a productive run, he spent the 1929 season in the minor leagues due to disciplinary issues. He worked an inning of mop-up duty in the 1931 World Series and after winning his second title, he started the opener the next year. That June he was sold to the Phillies, where he was worth 3.2 bWAR the rest of the year, a career high despite only making 20 starts with Philly. He bounced between the Phillies, Cardinals, Braves and Cardinals again from 1933-36 (75 ERA+) to wrap up his career.
Nick Altrock began his big league playing career with the Louisville Colonels in 1898 at age 21 and ended it in 1933 at age 57. In between, he was briefly one of baseball's best young hurlers, a key to one of the great upsets in World Series history and one of the game's greatest clowns.
From 1904 to 1906, Altrock averaged 21 wins and 2.9 bWAR with a 108 ERA+ for the Chicago White Sox. The 1906 club had the worst batting average in the league (.230) and slugged .286 (32 points below the league average). However, the pitching staff led them to the World Series against crosstown Cubs, who won a record 116 games and were huge favorites. Altrock landed the first punch for the ChiSox by beating Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown 2-1 in the opener. Brown answered in Game Four by outdueling Altrock 1-0 to even the series. But Ed Walsh and Doc White won the next two games as the "Hitless Wonders" stunned the Cubs to take the crown.
The lefty started the 1907 opener and battled injuries through the next three seasons before being traded to the Washington Senators. He was just about through as a player by 1912 at age 35, but he was just getting started as a coach. He soon started a comic act in the coaching box that was very popular and he would later work with another former pitcher and future "Clown Prince of Baseball," Al Schact.
Altrock periodically moved from the coaching box to the batter's box or pitcher's mound as a late-season publicity stunt, often for only one game. That includes the last day of the 1924 season, when he made his last appearance on the mound and cracked a triple at the age of 47. He came up for individual plate appearances in 1929, 1931 and 1933, the last coming when he was 57! He and Minnie Minoso are the only major leaguers to play in five different decades (both had publicity-stunt plate appearances for the fourth and fifth decades).
I'll conclude this 3,000 word monstrosity by saying that while Kyle Lohse got the nod yesterday for the 1950-present group, he competition in Nick Altrock and Flint Rhem. In fact, Lohse and Rhem are remarkably similar:
Wow. The only major difference is in strikeouts, but thanks to this amazing chart from High Heat Stats, you can see that Rhem's K numbers are actually better since strikeouts are much more prevalent today. Both are below the league average for their time, but Rhem's was 92.8 percent of the league average while Lohse's is 84.2. To hammer it home some more, Joel Pineiro, Carl Pavano and Ismael Valdez are all among the top seven in similiarity scores for both pitchers.
After the Mariners and A's square off for two games in Japan next Wednesday and Thursday (six days away!), the stateside start to the MLB season is April 4 in Miami. The Marlins will open up their sparkling new ballpark (with fish tank and crazy home run structure!) against the defending champion Cardinals. The man on the mound for St. Louis will not be either of the aces Carpenter or Wainwright, but journeyman Kyle Lohse. When Lohse takes the hill, he'll have a hard-drinking kindred spirit there with him. And his name is Flint.