With Ryan's season in mind, I want to find starting pitchers (i.e., 50+% of appearances were starts) who pitched well but had no luck in gathering wins. To do this, I'm going to use ERA+, defined as "the ratio of the league's ERA (adjusted to the pitcher's ballpark) to that of the pitcher. -- found by lgERA/ERA" Thus since Nolan Ryan played in a ballpark that favored pitchers in 1987, the league ERA used to derive ERA+ will be slightly higher than the actual average to reflect the slightly easier conditions (the exact process behind park adjustments is described here). Since Ryan's 2.76 was still much better than the adjusted league ERA, his ERA+ is an excellent 142. Using ERA+ also allows you to make judgments across time since it compares pitchers to others in their same league in the same year. For example, in 1918 Allen Sothoron put up a sterling 1.94 ERA in 209 innings. Though Sothoron's ERA looks much better than Ryan's, using ERA+ we see they were about equal in relation to the league they played in (Ryan's ERA+ was 142, Sothoron's was 141).
The second part of finding these unlucky guys is deciding which winning percentage to look under. Looking for guys with a losing record makes sense, but first I want to see guys who were really unlucky. To that effect, I'm going to look for pitchers who had a .333 or below winning percentage. Finally, a guy that goes 1-2 in 5 excellent starts is certainly unlucky, but I want to find pitchers who were unlucky for most of a season. Thus I'm going set the minimum for decisions at fifteen. It would be hard to start games all season and not get fifteen decisions somehow: only 35 pitchers since 1901 have started 25 or more games in a year and wound up with fewer than fifteen decisions. The only pitcher who might be excluded by this is John Dopson: he went 3-11 with a 118+ ERA for Montreal in 1988.
|Name||Year||ERA||ERA+||W-L Record||Run Support*||League Runs|
*Runs scored by the pitcher's team's offense in games in which he pitched; if prior to 1957, the team's runs per game. If more than one team, a weighted average based on innings pitched.
**League refers to the league (American/National) the pitcher was in. Any pitcher in both leagues gets a weighted average of the two league values based on innings pitched.
Poor Matt Cain, stuck on a team that couldn't score for him. Of course, it's perhaps harder to feel for him with his contract that makes him set for life than it is to feel for a guy like Erv Kantlehner who was out of baseball at the age of 24 and who probably didn't get paid real well when he was in the game. But from a strictly baseball sense: poor Matt Cain. I always figured Nolan Ryan was the best recent example of good pitching wrecked by anemic offense, but Jim Abbott's 1992 is even better: Abbott's Angels even got a designated hitter to help spur offense. I cut the chart off at 120 simply for brevity's sake, but you can find the list of all 126 better than average losers meeting my criteria here.
A final note about George Mogridge and Kantlehner: as noted, their "Run Support" number reflects their team's average runs per game. They very well might (and probably did) have had even fewer runs scored behind them.