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.

1 comment:

Bopperland said...

I loved the name of your award, Theron. The one thing that popped out at me right away was the salaries associated with selected pitchers on that list, like Zito and Pettitte. I wondered if they would all be bonus babies, but it turns out that they are an even mix of low & high salaries and AL vs NL. Darn that statistical distribution! (source:

1. Javier Vazquez, $11.5M
2. Aaron Harang, $6.75M
3. Justin Verlander, $1.13M
4. Andy Pettitte, $16M
5. Barry Zito, $14.5M
6. Brandon Backe, $800K
7. Greg Smith, Not Available
8. Brett Myers, $8.58M
9. Braden Looper, $5.5M
10. Brian Bannister, $421K