Friday, October 31, 2008

The Bryan Harvey Award

After the Steve Carlton Award for the highest percentage of a team's wins by one pitcher and the Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy Award for the highest percentage of a team's losses by one pitcher, it was suggested a similar award be made for saves. This award would be given out to the pitcher who has the highest proportion of saves to team wins.

This award is named after Bryan Harvey, a dominant closer whose career was shortened by elbow injuries. After pitching in three games for the California Angels in 1987, Harvey spent nearly all of 1988 with the Angels. His 2.13 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 76 innings led to 17 saves and a second-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Walt Weiss. Over the next two seasons he converted 50 of 63 save opportunities while striking out just over 12 batters per nine innings. The 1991 season, however, is when he really burst onto the scene. That year Harvey rode his awesome splitter to 46 saves in 67 games, spanning 78 2/3 innings. He struck out 101 batters while walking only seventeen. His ERA was an impressive 1.60 and his WHIP was a minuscule 0.86. He was rewarded with a spot on the all-star team, a fifth-place finish in the Cy Young voting, and a lucrative four-year deal.

Unfortunately, 1992 was a letdown year. A great start was curtailed by elbow injuries that ended Harvey's season after June. The Angels weren't optimistic about Harvey making a comeback and they hoped to offload his contract, so they left him unprotected in the expansion draft following the season and he was picked up by the Florida Marlins. He quickly made the pick worthwhile for the Marlins, putting together an excellent 1993 campaign: 45 saves in 59 games, 73 K's in 69 innings, an all-star appearance, and votes for the MVP and Cy Young Award. Unfortunately, his elbow problems returned the next year and he would only appear in 13 more major league games.

Harvey gets this award named after him because of that 1993 season with the Marlins. The Marlins won only 64 games in their first season, meaning that Harvey picked up a save in 70.3% of his team's wins, a major league record. No one else has reached even 65%.

Saves in the Highest Percentage of Team Wins, 1901-2008

RankNameTeamSavesTeam WinsSV%
1Bryan Harvey1993 Marlins456470.3
Eric Gagne2003 Dodgers558564.7
Mike Williams2002 Pirates467263.9
Randy Myers1993 Cubs538463.1
Roberto Hernandez1999 Devil Rays436962.3
Francisco Rodriguez2008 Angels6210062.0
Danys Baez2005 Devil Rays416761.2
Bobby Thigpen1990 White Sox579460.6
Ugueth Urbina1999 Expos416860.3
10Jose Mesa2004 Pirates437259.7

Obviously, Francisco Rodriguez is the 2008 Bryan Harvey Award winner. It never hurts to look at who else finished in the top ten, though:

2008 Bryan Harvey Award Rankings
  1. Francisco Rodriguez, Angels, 62 saves out of 100 wins, 62.0%
  2. Brian Wilson, Giants, 41 out of 72, 56.9%
  3. Joakim Soria, Royals, 42 out of 75, 56.0%
  4. Jose Valverde, Astros, 44 out of 86, 51.2%
  5. Trevor Hoffman, Padres, 30 out of 63, 47.6%
  6. Francisco Cordero, Reds, 34 out of 74, 45.9%
  7. George Sherrill, Orioles, 31 out of 68, 45.6%
  8. Brad Lidge, Phillies, 41 out of 92, 44.6%
  9. Joe Nathan, Twins, 39 out of 88, 44.3%
  10. Mariano Rivera, Yankees, 39 out of 89, 43.8%
Eighty-three pitchers have saved half or more of their team's wins in a season. Before the 1990 season, only five pitchers had done so a total of six times: Rollie Fingers (1977), Dan Quisenberry (1983 & 1984), Bruce Sutter (1984), Dave Righetti (1986), and Steve Bedrosian (1987). Fingers was the only one of those six to do it while saving fewer than forty games.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

AAA Errors Leaders

First off, congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies for winning the 2008 World Series. As always it was a long trip with ups and downs for every team, but the 2008 season that started half a world away, half a year ago, is finally over. Since my last two posts have highlighted how inept Phillies teams were historically, I'm glad Philadelphia fans have a championship to celebrate.

I was going to continue my award winners posts by talking about which pitchers saved the highest percentage of their team's wins, but I haven't gotten around to doing that yet. There's another idea of two that I was given a few weeks ago I have squirreled away as well. Busy, lazy, unfocused, whatever. I'll be posting on those topics soon.

I do have something else to talk about today though. Have you ever casually followed a minor leaguer, seen he's committed a fair number of errors, and wondered how he stacks up against the rest of his league? It's pretty difficult to find defensive leaderboards for minor league teams. Sure, individual batting stats for each minor league team on have a column for errors, but there's no way to compare players around the league short of looking at every team.

Using the data available in the minor leagues section of, it's possible to put together league leaderboards. I've only put together the numbers for AAA players so far, but once I get all the leagues done, I'll start posting by position. For now, though, I've got a listing of the most total errors committed by one player in AAA this past season. I've used the common scoring number to indicate positions played (6 = shortstop, etc.) and multiple positions are listed in order of innings played there.

Most Total Errors in AAA in 2008

1Matt TuiasosopoSEA5108919.32812716.904
2Mark SaccomannoHOU5-31321104.36452461.963
3Joaquin AriasTEX4-686739.34142354.944

Andres BlancoCHC6-5-497725.03892349.941

Matt MacriMIN6-4-5-387721.04112364.944

Jesus MerchanARI6-4-5-7113954.35122383.955

Sergio SantosTOR

8Michael CostanzoBAL5-3-2112957.75182236.958

Aaron HerrCLE
10Jamie D'AntonaARI5-3-296764.73072125.932
11Ryan RobertsTEX4-5-6-71261063.34812054.958

Mike RouseCHW

Danny SandovalCLE

Freddy SandovalLAA5-3-4-71221041.75082057.961

Brandon WoodLAA6-5104898.74102062.951

I think that's one category Matt Tuiasosopo didn't want to lead the league in. These lucky fifteen were the only players who managed to reach twenty errors this season.

If you looked at the fielding percentage of Tuiasosopo and Aaron Herr and thought they must be near the bottom of the league, you are correct. Among all players who spent more than 400 innings in the field, only one guy had a lower fielding percentage than those two.

Worst Fielding Percentage in AAA in 2008 (minimum 400 innings on defense)
  1. Morgan Ensberg (CLE), .891
  2. Aaron Herr (CLE/CIN), .901
  3. Matt Tuiasosopo (SEA), .904
  4. Ian Stewart (COL), .914
  5. Brendan Katin (MIL), .926
  6. Jamie D'Antona (ARI), .932
  7. Anderson Machado (NYM), .933
  8. Josh Fields (CHW), .933
  9. Luis Terrero (BAL), .937
  10. Brandon Fahey (BAL), .938
  11. Jeff Baisley (OAK), .938
  12. Enrique Cruz (ATL), .938
These were the only players to finish under .940 on the season. If you're familiar with the minor leagues you might notice the two outfielders on this list: Brendan Katin and Luis Terrero. Terrero in fact led all AAA outfielders with thirteen errors last season. Katin was hot on his trail with ten.

I think a suitable way to end this post about defensive struggles is to check out some truly bad fielding percentages. Here are the worst AAA fielding percentages for players with ten or more total chances in the field at a given position.

Casey DaiglePMIN176.647
Brian SlocumPCLE176.647
John ParrishPTOR227.682
Brandon Fahey3BBAL134.692
Mike GoslingPTOR144.714
Jeff KennardPLAA113.727
Marcus GwynPFLA123.750
Chip Cannon3BTOR256.760
Brandon VillafuertePFLA274.765
Giancarlo AlvaradoPLAA133.769

Pitcher's fielding practice, people, come on! I guess the Brandon Fahey and Chip Cannon at third base experiments didn't turn out so well. It's interesting to see how a couple organizations have multiple players but I doubt it says anything: a lot of the pitchers here are veteran guys who have spent time in more than one organization.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy Award

The sponsorship message on Hugh Mulcahy's page sums up Mulcahy's career pretty well:

Seattle Marinerds sponsor(s) this page.

There are bad pitchers, and there are unlucky pitchers, and then there are men who were neither: they were just cursed to pitch on horrendous Philadelphia teams, the poor souls.

Mulcahy was a regular member of the Phillies for only four seasons, but he wasn't a terrible pitcher. Sure, he walked too many batters. Yeah, his strikeout total is pretty low, even for the late 30's (Mulcahy had 2.51 K/9 from 1937-40 - the NL was at 3.52 for the same period). His ERA was nothing to brag about either. But he was durable, finishing in the NL's top 10 for innings pitched three years in a row. All in all, he wasn't someone you'd find in a key spot for a good team, but he was a capable innings-eater in the majors.

Unfortunately, as the above message says, he was stuck on some terrible Phillies teams. From 1938-1940, the Phillies were worst in the league at scoring runs and worst in the league at preventing them. Philadelphia's NL team lost 100 games in six out of seven seasons after 1935. It wasn't like this was a short-lived time of troubles for Philadelphia: from 1919 to 1948 the Phillies finished in the top half of the NL one time. That was in 1932 when Burt Shotton guided the club to a 78-76 record and a fourth place finish. That was the only winning season the team had over that stretch.

You know what's coming next: the combination of Mulcahy's durability, lack of dominance, and terrible surrounding cast led to a lot of losses on his record. Over his four seasons in the Phillies rotation he lost 76 games. He led the league in losses in 1938 and 1940. His regular placement in box scores gave him perhaps the most unfortunate nickname of any major league player: "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy.

While he was doomed to bad teams and may have even had a respectable record had he pitched for better teams, it only seems fitting that Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy be the namesake of the opposite of the Steve Carlton Award I posted about earlier in the week. Whereas Carlton won plenty of games for a team that didn't win much, the Hugh Mulcahy Award recognizes pitchers who were responsible the highest percentage of their team's losses.

The top ten all-time is again clogged with early 20th-century pitchers, so I'll post a separate 1961-2008 list again.

Highest Percentage of Team's Losses By One Pitcher

RankPitcherPitcher W-LTeamTeam W-LL%
1Joe McGinnity31-201903 New York Giants84-5536.4
2Bill Dinneen21-211902 Boston Red Sox77-6035.0
3George Mullin20-201907 Detroit Tigers92-5834.5
4Dolf Luque13-231922 Cincinnati Reds86-6833.8
5Patsy Flaherty11-251903 Chicago White Sox60-7732.5
6Eppa Rixey16-211917 Philadelphia Phillies87-6532.3
7Harry Howell14-211901 Baltimore Orioles68-6532.3
8Jack Powell23-191904 New York Highlanders92-5932.2
9Dummy Taylor21-151904 New York Giants106-4731.9
10Dummy Taylor18-271901 New York Giants52-8531.8

Quick, spot the Hall of Famers! Dummy Taylor just couldn't catch a break (or avoid a loss), I guess.

This next list should be more interesting. At the very least, the names should be more familiar.

Highest Percentage of Team's Losses By One Pitcher

RankPitcherPitcher W-LTeamTeam W-LL%
1Dennis Martinez15-161979 Baltimore Orioles102-5728.1
Don Drysdale19-171963 Los Angeles Dodgers99-6327.0
Steve Rogers15-221974 Montreal Expos79-8226.8
Ralph Terry17-151963 New York Yankees104-5726.3
Dave McNally17-171973 Baltimore Orioles97-6526.2
Mike Moore13-151990 Oakland Athletics103-5925.4
Wilbur Wood24-171972 Chicago White Sox87-6725.4
Brian Kingman8-201980 Oakland Athletics83-7925.3
Jim Bibby19-191974 Texas Rangers84-7625.0
10Dennis Martinez7-161983 Baltimore Orioles98-6425.0

Hmm. Maybe I should call it the Dennis Martinez Award instead. Nah, I still like the idea of an award involving losses named after Losing Pitcher Mulcahy, even if he never would've won the award. I don't think Martinez will mind.

So who was responsible for the highest percentage of his team's losses this year? Strangely, the top ten is split evenly between above-.500 and below-.500 teams:

2008 Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy Award Rankings
  1. Javier Vazquez, 12-16 for the 89-74 White Sox, 21.6%
  2. Aaron Harang, 6-17 for the 74-88 Reds, 19.3%
  3. Justin Verlander, 11-17 for the 74-88 Reds, 19.3%
  4. Andy Pettitte, 14-14 for the 89-73 Yankees, 19.2%
  5. Barry Zito, 10-17 for the 72-90 Giants, 18.9%
  6. Brandon Backe, 9-14 for the 86-75 Astros, 18.7%
  7. Greg Smith, 7-16 for the 75-86 Athletics, 18.6%
  8. Brett Myers, 10-13 for the 92-70 Phillies, 18.6%
  9. Braden Looper, 12-14 for the 86-76 Cardinals, 18.4%
  10. Brian Bannister, 9-16 for the 75-87 Royals, 18.4%
Vazquez is one of fifteen pitchers to be above 20.0% in a season since 2000. The highest on the list? Livan Hernandez and his 12-16 record for the 2002 Giants. San Francisco lost 66 games that season, meaning Hernandez accounted for 24.2% of his team's losses.

Fun fact: Deacon Phillippe went 20-9 for the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates only lost 36 games that season, making him responsible for one-quarter of his team's losses. That's the highest percentage among pitchers with single-digit losses on the season.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Steve Carlton Award

In 1972, Steve Carlton had a season for the ages. The Philadelphia lefty started 41 games, completed thirty of them, and had eight shutouts. He struck out 310 batters and walked only 87 in 346 1/3 innings pitched. His ERA was a phenomenal 1.97 and his WHIP (walks plus hits over innings pitched) was a minuscule 0.993. He won 27 games, lost 10, and easily took home the Cy Young Award after the season.

Looking at the team he played for, however, makes his won-loss record even more impressive. The 1972 Philadelphia Phillies were a terrible team. They had the second-worst offense in the National League, scoring 3.22 runs per game. Only two players hit .280 with 200 or more at bats for the team. Only four players with 200+ at bats had an on base percentage above .300. With Carlton, the starting rotation was in the middle of the pack, without him they lagged behind the rest of the league. Obviously any team would struggle without their best pitcher, but the Phillies really had little else besides their ace lefty. The Phillies' bullpen wasn't much relief. All of this added up to an awful 59-97 record and last place in the NL East.

Consider that for a moment: Steve Carlton won 27 games on a team that only won 59 games. He won 45.8% of his team's games - a major league record since 1901. In fact, he's one of only ten pitchers since 1901 to win more than 40% of his team's games in a season and the only one to do so since 1922.

Note: for simplicity's sake, pitchers appearing for two or more teams have their wins for each team treated as if they were with that club all season. For example, if Johnny Goodarm wins 8 games for the 80-82 Pirates and 14 games for the 70-92 Cardinals, he's considered to have won 10% of the Pirates' games and 20% of the Cardinals' games rather than the percentage of the wins each team got with him on the roster. Unfair? Possibly, if the universe conspires against a great pitcher and he's stuck on multiple really bad teams. I can live with that.

Highest Percentage of Team's Wins By One Pitcher

RankPitcherPitcher W-L
TeamTeam W-LW%
1Steve Carlton27-101972 Philadelphia Phillies59-9745.8
2Ed Walsh40-151908 Chicago White Sox88-6445.5
3Jack Chesbro41-121904 New York Highlanders92-5944.6
4Noodles Hahn22-191901 Cincinnati Reds52-8742.3
5Cy Young33-101901 Boston Americans79-5741.8
6Joe Bush15-241916 Philadelphia Athletics36-11741.7
7Cy Young32-111902 Boston Americans77-6041.6
8Eddie Rommel27-131922 Philadelphia Athletics65-8941.5
9Red Faber25-151921 Chicago White Sox62-9240.3
10Walter Johnson36-71913 Washington Senators90-6440.0

As I mentioned before, Carlton started 41 games in 1972. Only three of the pitchers on this list besides Carlton wound up with fewer than 41 decisions in those seasons. That makes Carlton seem even more out of place on the list.

To really show how out there Carlton's 1972 season is, we should look at the same list but with more recent pitchers. Here are how pitchers since expansion in 1961 stack up:

Highest Percentage of Team's Wins By One Pitcher

RankNamePitcher W-LTeamTeam W-LW%
1Steve Carlton27-101972 Philadelphia Phillies59-9745.8
Gaylord Perry24-161972 Cleveland Indians72-8433.3
Nolan Ryan22-161974 California Angels68-9432.4
Phil Niekro21-201979 Atlanta Braves66-9431.8
Larry Jackson24-111964 Chicago Cubs76-8631.6
Randy Johnson16-142004 Arizona Diamondbacks51-11131.4
Wilbur Wood24-201973 Chicago White Sox77-8531.2
Bob Gibson23-71970 St. Louis Cardinals76-8630.3
Randy Jones22-141976 San Diego Padres73-8930.1
Denny McLain31-61968 Detroit Tigers103-5930.1

Wow. Even in a list dominated by 1970's pitchers, Carlton blows everyone away. I figured there might be someone closer to 40% than 30%, but nope. With current five-man rotations meaning healthy pitchers make around 33 or 34 starts per year, it'll be hard for any pitcher to crack that top 10. A pitcher would have to win 20 games on a team that wins 66 games or less in a season. A 15-game winner would have to toil away on a team that loses 113 or more games. A pitcher would have to win 25 games on an 81-win team. Good luck.

But that doesn't mean we can't issue a Steve Carlton Award today. It simply goes to the pitcher who is credited with the highest percentage of his team's wins. It turns out the race this year went down to the wire:

2008 Steve Carlton Award Rankings
  1. Cliff Lee, 22-3 for the 81-81 Indians, 27.2%
  2. Brandon Webb, 22-7 for the 82-80 Diamondbacks, 26.8%
  3. Tim Lincecum, 18-5 for the 72-90 Giants, 25.0%
  4. Roy Halladay, 20-11 for the 86-76 Blue Jays, 23.3%
  5. Edinson Volquez, 17-6 for the 74-88 Reds, 23.0%
  6. Mike Mussina, 20-9 for the 89-73 Yankees, 22.5%
  7. Aaron Cook, 16-9 for the 74-88 Rockies, 21.6%
  8. A.J. Burnett, 18-10 for the 86-76 Blue Jays, 20.9%
  9. Bronson Arroyo, 15-11 for the 74-88 Reds, 20.3%
  10. Roy Oswalt, 17-10 for the 86-75 Astros, 19.8%
The only pitcher between Lee and Randy Johnson's 2004? Would you believe Paul Byrd in 2002? He went 17-11 for Kansas City, a team that finished 62-100.

One more fun fact: the highest percentage of team wins by a pitcher who won fewer than ten games is shared between Jing Johnson and Walt Kinney of the 1919 Athletics. They both went 9-15, each winning 25% of the Athletics' games on the year. When Mike Maroth went 9-21 for the 2003 Tigers, he was responsible for "only" 20.9% of his team's 43 victories.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Offseason Dates Worth Knowing

I put this together earlier today for Brew Crew Ball and figured it'd be useful here, as well. I used Brewers players in the examples because I'm most familiar with them. Many other teams have similar players.

Major League Baseball has a lot of complicated rules and procedures regarding player contracts, salaries, free agency, arbitration, and so on. There's certain times players can declare free agency, there's certain times clubs and players can agree to arbitration, there's conditions on how much money a released player gets. You get the idea. I thought I'd try and simplify things by going through the CBA and looking at the MLB Important Dates and 2008 season calendar to try and plot out what will go on when this offseason.

If anything is wrong or I flat out missed anything (and I'm sure there's something on both counts), speak up.

2008-2009 MLB Offseason Dates Worth Knowing

  • Starting with the day after the conclusion of the regular season, players can be traded with no waiver rules in effect. It was originally September 29 this year, but with the extra games I suspect they pushed it back to October 1. I don't think it impacted anyone anyway. Trade announcements are probably encouraged to be postponed until after the World Series.

  • October 15 was the first date when players with 3+ years of service time who were outrighted to the minors at any point during the season, accepted the assignment, and still haven't returned to a major league roster could declare free agency. Players who were outrighted for at least the second time in their career, accepted the assignment, and weren't placed on a major league roster again could do the same.

  • The 1st day after the World Series is the first of a 15-day period during which eligible players (6+ years of service time, no contract for next year) can declare free agency.

  • The 16th day after the World Series is the first day Major League free agents can negotiate and sign with a team other than their former team. It's also the first day MLB teams can sign minor league free agents.

  • The General Managers meetings are held in Dana Point, California, from November 3-6.

  • November 20 is the day teams have to file their reserve lists for all major league and minor league levels. I think that's the day you say who you want to protect in the Rule 5 draft, but I could be wrong.

  • December 1 is the last day for teams with Type A or Type B free agents to offer arbitration to them, provided they haven't signed with another team yet. The player would have to accept within a week. If a Type A or B free agent signs with a team other than his former team before December 1, his former team gets draft picks regardless of whether or not they had offered arbitration to the player.

  • December 4 is the last day to request outright waivers to assign guys prior to the Rule 5 draft and December 8 is the last day to outright players prior to the Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft takes place on December 11.

  • Not coincidentally, the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas take place from December 8-11.

  • December 12 is the last day to tender contracts for 2009 to guys you want to keep around. There's a maximum salary reduction rule for players under reserve to the club. They must be tendered a contract with a salary that's at least 80% of their salary from the previous year or 70% of their salary from the year before that, whichever is higher. This happened to Rickie Weeks last offseason: the major league contract he signed in 2003 called for a salary of $1.22M in 2006 and $1.32M in 2007. Since 80% of his 2007 salary is $1.056M, and 70% of his 2006 salary is $0.854M, the team had to give him at least $1.056M for 2008. That's what he made last year. Reserved players signed to minor league deals can't have their salaries reduced more than 40% from year to year.

  • Between January 2-12, teams must notify players eligible for arbitration that they wish to offer them arbitration. Players can agree to go to arbitration at any time between January 5-15. If a player's salary was increased in excess of 50% through arbitration for the prior season, teams aren't bound by maximum salary reduction rules in their arbitration offers to players. They are still bound by those rules if they make contract offers outside of arbitration. I think it works like this: JJ Hardy's salary jumped from $0.4M in 2007 to $2.65M in 2008 through arbitration. The team could submit a salary arbitration figure slashing his 2008 salary as much as they wanted (though they would obviously not be guaranteed to get it), but if they were just renewing his contract (i.e., neither JJ or the team submitted to arbitration) they'd have to offer at least 80% of his salary from 2008.

  • By January 18, the team offers and player offers for arbitration are shared between the MLBPA and the MLB Labor Relations Department.

  • Arbitration hearings are held between February 1-20.

  • Injured players, pitchers, and catchers may be invited to spring training no earlier than February 20 (45 days before the start of the regular season). All other players may be invited to attend no earlier than February 25 (40 days before the start of the regular season). No player is required to report to spring training more than 33 days before the start of the regular season, or March 4 next year, though inevitable "visa problems" can delay that for some guys.

  • If a team and player tendered a contract haven't agreed on a salary for 2009, contracts can be renewed between March 2 and March 11. The maximum salary reduction rules mentioned above still apply. This happened to Prince Fielder last season.

  • In order to only owe a player 30 days of termination pay, he must be unconditionally released on or before the 16th day prior to the start of regular season. For next year, that's March 22. Any player released after that date but during spring training gets 45 days termination pay. That happened to Claudio Vargas last season. Players released during the season get paid their entire salary.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

If His Arm Works, Who Cares What He Wears?

On April 9, 2008, the Seattle Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 7-1. Following 7 2/3 forgettable innings pitched by Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine and lefty reliever J.P. Howell, a Rays righthander made his season debut. He got Ichiro Suzuki to ground out and pitched a scoreless ninth to finish the game. Unfortunately, this mystery reliever was optioned to AAA Durham on April 12. While in Durham, he had elbow troubles that required surgery and now he will miss much of the 2009 season.

So who is this mystery player (and will he be voted a playoff share by the rest of the Rays)? None other than Korean right-hander Jae Kuk Ryu. There's not much remarkable about Ryu's career so far, though his one appearance this year did lower his career ERA below 7.50. The reason I bring him up is not for his on-field exploits but instead because of his number. As you can see here, Ryu wears uniform number 11.

Now, Ryu's not the first pitcher to wear that number (that would be Herb Pennock in 1929), but he is, I believe, the only pitcher to wear #11 this season. Since Josh Towers spent all season "pitching" for the AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Ryu wore the lowest uniform number of any pitcher in 2008. Wait...I should say that he wore the lowest number of any regular pitcher: Tony Pena Jr. (wearing #1) pitched a perfect inning for the Royals in July. Note: I haven't found a complete 2008 numerical roster for every team so if I'm wrong about Ryu having the lowest number of any pitcher, let me know. I can tell you, however, that Ryu is only the second pitcher in Rays history to wear a number as low as 11. The other? Hideo Nomo in 2005.

Ryu's National League equivalent is a pitcher who spent the entire year on his team's major league roster. Barring any renegade #10's or #11's (or even other #12's) I missed in the senior circuit, the NL pitcher with the lowest number was Carlos Villanueva, wearing #12 for the Milwaukee Brewers. According to the team media guide, Villanueva is only the fifth pitcher in Brewers history to wear such a low number. Curtis Leskanic wore #00 from 2000 to 2002, Chuck Taylor wore #6 in 1972, Bob McClure wore #10 for ten seasons in the 70's and 80's, and the aforementioned Hideo Nomo wore #11 in 1999.

So why do pitchers usually wear higher numbers? On a related note, why did I suggest only renegade #10's and #11's would be out there? The common answer when it comes to the origin and development of uniform numbers in baseball is that they originally had to do with each player's spot in the lineup. The leadoff batter wore #1, the cleanup hitter wore #4, the backup catcher wore #9, pitchers were given numbers in the teens, and so on. This is how Babe Ruth was assigned #3 and Lou Gehrig was given #4 while pitchers like Herb Pennock and Waite Hoyt got #11 and #12, respectively.

The Yankees assigned numbers this way, not every pitcher wore a double-digit number. It wasn't common, but twenty-four pitchers on twelve teams from 1931 (when most teams started wearing numbers) through 1940 took the mound with a number lower than 10. A bunch of those guys played for one team, though: the Phillies in 1939 and 1940 had seven different pitchers wear single digit numbers. During World War II, twenty pitchers did the same.

It wasn't until the 1960's that it truly became rare for pitchers to have single digit numbers on their backs. Since the major leagues expanded in 1961, only twelve pitchers have worn such uniforms. Only two pitchers have done so for more than one season. So what caused such a slowdown?

In the 1950's and early 1960's some National League teams (notably the Reds) attempted to standardize uniform numbers. Under their system, single-digit numbers were reserved for coaches and catchers, infielders got numbers in the teens, outfielders drew the 20's, and pitchers were given uniform numbers 30 through 49. The system eventually fell out of use (except possibly for coaches wearing low numbers), but I suspect it had something to do with pitchers shying away from single-digit numbers.

Then again, was it really up to the players in the first place? Of the seventy-six pitchers to wear single-digit numbers between 1931 and 1960, only six of them had those numbers for more than one season. None of them wore it for more than two. This suggests to me that they were assigned numbers rather than allowed to choose them, or, if they were allowed to choose, they didn't want such low numbers anyway. In any event, it seems that baseball tradition looks askance at pitchers with single digits on their backs. That doesn't mean there won't be any rebels looking to shake things up, however.

To conclude this post, I'm going to put up a list of the pitchers since 1961 to wear uniform numbers lower than ten. To get a feel for where Ryu and Villanueva fit in recently, I'm also going to make a list of pitchers to wear #10, #11, and #12 since the 2000 season. But first, I want to note where I got my information on uniform numbers. My first step was to look at each team's media guide (all available here) to see if they had an all-time numerical roster, figuring that should be pretty accurate. Eleven teams had all-time numerical rosters in their media guide. My next step was to try and locate websites online that had uniform numbers data for different teams. Luckily, I found eight such sites. Their names should make it obvious which teams are covered:
Baseball fans are awesome. Again, I only looked for these types of sites if a team's media guide didn't already have a numerical roster, so it's entirely possible I missed some for teams with rosters in their guides. Finally, if both those methods failed, I fell back on the rosters available at That site has uniform data for all teams going back to the 1930's, but I'm not sure where they got their numbers. I haven't found anything crazy, so it's good enough for me.

With all of that in mind, here are the pitchers (excluding position players throwing mop-up innings) since 1961 to wear numbers lower than ten:
  • #1 Jack Jenkins - 1962 Senators
  • #8 Bob Baird - 1963 Senators
  • #4 George Brunet - 1970 Pirates
  • #6 Chuck Taylor - 1972 Brewers
  • #7 Horacio Pina - 1973 Athletics
  • #7 Atlee Hammaker - 1985 Giants
  • #1 Matt Young - 1990 Mariners
  • #00 Omar Olivares - 1993 Cardinals and 1995 Phillies
  • #7 Jeff Juden - 1997 Indians
  • #00 Curtis Leskanic - 2000-2002 Brewers
  • #2 Wayne Gomes - 2001 Giants
  • #6 Rob Bell - 2001-2002 Rangers
  • #00 Rick White - 2004 Indians, 2005 Pirates, 2006 Reds, and 2006 Phillies
  • #3 David Wells - 2005 Red Sox
  • #7 Josh Towers - 2003-2007 Blue Jays
I can go either way on the double-zero guys. They are wearing a low number (can't go below zero!), but they aren't wearing a single digit. I suppose you have to have a, well, special mindset to want to slap zeros on your back, so I included them as fellow rebellious souls.

As mentioned above, here are the pitchers (again excluding mop-up position players) to wear #10, #11, or #12 since 2000:
  • #12 Denny Neagle - 2000 Yankees
  • #11 Hideo Nomo - 2001 Red Sox & 2005 Devil Rays
  • #10 Mike Hampton - 2001-2002 Rockies
  • #12 Calvin Maduro - 2001-2002 Orioles
  • #10 Hideo Nomo - 2002-2004 Dodgers
  • #12 Matt Riley - 2004 Orioles
  • #10 Shingo Takatsu - 2004-2005 White Sox & 2005 Mets
  • #10 Danys Baez - 2006 Dodgers
  • #11 Scott Sauerbeck - 2006 Athletics
  • #12 Jason Bulger - 2006 Angels
  • #11 Jae Kuk Ryu - 2007-2008 Devil Rays
  • #12 Carlos Villanueva - 2007-2008 Brewers
There you go. Ryu & Villanueva are the latest in a line of only a couple pitchers every season to wear such low numbers on their uniform. I've checked all the 40-man rosters available on, so any other pitchers to take the mound with a number below #12 would have had to either been released, outrighted off their team's roster, or changed their number since they pitched.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

More on the Single-Season Saves Record

If you've followed the 2008 Major League Baseball season at all, you're aware that Francisco Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Angels set a new single-season record for saves. Rodriguez wound up with 62 saves on the year, breaking Bobby Thigpen's 18-year-old record. However, some people have trivialized his accomplishment, pointing to his eight saves gathered in appearances of less than one inning as evidence that he had an easier road to the record than other closers. This easier road supposedly comes about because those short saves can be earned with a four or five run lead and only having to retire one or two hitters is less impressive than having to retire three or more. I'm sure there's other reasons that picking up short-outing saves is frowned upon.

Either way, I wondered who would hold the record if you threw out saves earned in appearances lasting less than one inning. If pitching at least one full inning was retroactively made a requirement of picking up saves, would Rodriguez still have set a single-season record? Here's what the new leaderboard would look like:

Most Saves in a Single Season
(min. 1 IP to earn a save)

1John Smoltz200254

Francisco Rodriguez200854
3Eric Gagne200353
4Bobby Thigpen199052

Eric Gagne200252
6Mariano Rivera200451
7Randy Myers199350

Trevor Hoffman199850
9Dennis Eckersley199247

Jeff Shaw199847

Mariano Rivera200147

Jose Valverde200747
13Trevor Hoffman200645
14Lee Smith199144

Rod Beck199344

Jeff Brantley199644

Eddie Guardado200244

Mike Williams200244

Billy Wagner200344

Francisco Cordero200444

Chad Cordero200544

Bob Wickman200544

So it turns out that Rodriguez is still atop the list. He's no longer alone, however. Smoltz in 2002 was credited with 55 saves, but one of them was earned by pitching only one-third of an inning. I wonder if anyone brought up Bobby Thigpen's five short saves when he set the saves record in 1990. Eric Gagne in 2002 has the record for most saves in a season without one lasting less than one inning in length.

So where does Francisco Rodriguez's eight saves of less than one inning rank all-time? It turns out that his is one of 56 seasons with eight or more such short saves in a single year. Here are the thirteen seasons with ten or more:
  • Bill Henry, 1961 - 11
  • Sparky Lyle, 1971 - 10
  • Dave Giusti, 1972 - 10
  • Don Stanhouse, 1978 - 10
  • Jeff Reardon, 1983 - 10
  • Dave Smith, 1985 - 10
  • Todd Worrell, 1987 - 10
  • Jeff Russell, 1989 - 10
  • Steve Farr, 1991 - 10
  • Steve Olin, 1992 - 10
  • John Wetteland, 1993 - 10
  • Mike Henneman, 1996 - 10
  • Rod Beck, 1998 - 10
It's interesting to see how many of those seasons took place in the 70's and 80's, the good old days of closers going more than an inning to pick up saves. I guess some people didn't get the message.

So, when you hear about Francisco Rodriguez's single-season saves record meaning less because he had eight saves lasting less than an inning, remember it's not a big deal. If those saves were taken away not just from him but from everyone, he still would be a recordholder. Not only that, but while eight of those saves is a relatively high total, Rodriguez is hardly alone in getting that many.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Unearned Run Average

I said I'd post this a couple days ago but haven't been able to get around to it until now. Oops.

In my last post I talked about unearned runs throughout baseball history. To quickly recap, the nineteenth century was filled with errors and unearned runs, the early twentieth century saw steadily decreasing totals of unearned runs. Since the end of World War II, baseball's been relatively even when it comes to unearned runs, though they've again been decreasing in recent years.

With all of that in mind, I want to look at the career and single-season records for the highest unearned run average (UERA). Since a list of guys from the nineteenth century is pretty boring for a lot of baseball fans these days, I'll make a post-1946 list for the career record to go along with the overall list. For the single-season numbers, I've split the record into 1876-1919, 1920-1945, and 1946-present lists. For the career list, I'm going to use the usual minimum of 3000 career innings. For the season lists, I'll use the nice round number of 100 innings pitched as a minimum.

Highest Career Unearned Run Average
(miminum 3000 IP)
  1. Will White, 1877-1886, 2.41
  2. Jim Whitney, 1881-1890, 2.24
  3. Pud Galvin, 1879-1892, 2.16
  4. Adonis Terry, 1884-1897, 2.15
  5. Mickey Welch, 1880-1892, 2.08
  6. Bill Hutchison, 1884-1897, 2.00
  7. Jim McCormick, 1878-1887, 1.98
  8. Tony Mullane, 1881-1894, 1.96
  9. Silver King, 1886-1897, 1.92
  10. Gus Weyhing, 1887-1901, 1.92
Highest Career Unearned Run Average, 1946-2008
(miminum 3000 IP)
  1. Curt Simmons, 1947-1967, 0.63
  2. Jim Kaat, 1959-1983, 0.60
  3. Phil Niekro, 1964-1987, 0.54
  4. Bob Friend, 1951-1966, 0.53
  5. Charlie Hough, 1970-1994, 0.53
  6. Jerry Reuss, 1969-1990, 0.53
  7. Juan Marichal, 1960-1975, 0.52
  8. Tommy John, 1963-1989, 0.51
  9. Rick Wise, 1964-1982, 0.50
  10. Mike Torrez, 1967-1984, 0.48
  11. Kevin Brown, 1986-2005, 0.48
The active pitcher with the highest career UERA is Kenny Rogers at 0.47. Randy Johnson is second at 0.41. He won't reach 3000 innings pitched, but active reliever Julian Tavarez clocks in with a 0.64 career UERA, the highest among active players with 1000 or more innings.

Highest Single-Season Unearned Run Average, 1876-1919
(miminum 100 IP)
  1. Lon Knight, 1876 Philadelphia Athletics, 6.57
  2. Dory Dean, 1876 Cincinnati Reds, 5.45
  3. Mike Golden, 1878 Milwaukee Grays, 5.42
  4. Scott Stratton, 1889 Louisville Colonels, 5.25
  5. Bobby Mathews, 1877 Cincinnati Reds, 5.15
  6. Ernie Hickman, 1884 Kansas City Cowboys, 5.05
  7. Fred Corey, 1882 Worcester Ruby Legs, 4.99
  8. Cherokee Fisher, 1876 Cincinnati Reds, 4.91
  9. Mike Morrison, 1887 Cleveland Blues, 4.77
  10. Tom Poorman, 1880 Buffalo/Chicago, 4.68
The 1876 Reds had some issues on defense, methinks.

Highest Single-Season Unearned Run Average, 1920-1945
(miminum 100 IP)
  1. Lefty Weinart, 1922 Phillies, 2.16
  2. Lefty Weinart, 1923 Phillies, 2.13
  3. Jesse Winters, 1921 Phillies, 2.13
  4. Junior Thompson, 1942 Reds, 2.04
  5. George Smith, 1921 Phillies, 1.99
  6. Carl Holling, 1921 Tigers, 1.99
  7. Chubby Dean, 1939 Athletics, 1.93
  8. Ed Heusser, 1940 Athletics, 1.88
  9. Dave Keefe, 1921 Athletics, 1.87
  10. Dutch Henry, 1930 White Sox, 1.86
This time it's the early-20's Phillies defense that didn't back up their pitching staff.

Highest Single-Season Unearned Run Average, 1946-2008
(miminum 100 IP)
  1. Craig Anderson, 1962 Mets, 2.06
  2. Anthony Young, 1993 Mets, 1.79
  3. Leo Kiely, 1954 Red Sox, 1.58
  4. Eddie Smith, 1946 White Sox, 1.55
  5. Ray Sadecki, 1966 Cardinals/Giants, 1.53
  6. Bobby Bolin, 1963 Giants, 1.51
  7. Sheldon Jones, 1951 Giants, 1.50
  8. Ed Farmer, 1979 Rangers/White Sox, 1.50
  9. Al Papai, 1949 Browns, 1.45
  10. Jack Hamilton, 1966 Mets, 1.45
It seems fitting that the hapless 1962 Mets have a pitcher on top of this list. For the curious, the 2008 leader was Jay Bergmann of the Nationals with a 0.97 UERA. Sidney Ponson of the Rangers and Yankees was the AL leader (and second overall) at 0.86.