The Underrated Phil Niekro

Niekro was a really good pitcher for a very long time. He didn’t get much acclaim during his career, judging from award voting, but looking at the incredible number of innings he pitched, year after year, I have to think he’s underrated. 280 or so innings each year, 1968 through 1980, with ERAs that were fairly close to the league leaders, is an awfully nice thing to bank on if you’re the GM or manager of a team.

For example, Niekro’s 1978: a 2.76 ERA for 334 1/3rd innings should be good for better than 6th place in the Cy Young voting. Baseball-reference has him leading the NL in WAR that year. Are Niekro’s stats unfairly discounted because he wasn’t a “great” pitcher (didn’t have the profile of Marichal or Seaver or Gibson), didn’t have an awesome strikeout rate, hardly ever got into the postseason, and threw a knuckleball? The obvious comparison is with Don Sutton, who benefited from pitching for the Dodgers while Niekro was pitching for the Braves.

Published in: Uncategorized on January 22, 2019 at 7:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

The 1938 to 1942 Philadelphia Phillies

These five teams reached a peak of 50 wins, in 1940. Here are some of their monthly win-loss tallies:
For 1938: 1-10; 5-20; 7-22
1939: 7-23; 6-27
1940: 9-21; 7-23; 11-24
1941: 7-22; 6-20; 7-22
1942: 4-12; 5;19; 8-20; 6-21

By September of 1942, Philadelphia was so tired of watching the Phillies play that on September 11, only 393 people got to Shibe Park for that day’s game vs. the Reds.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 29, 2018 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Leading the League in Homers and Bases on Balls

This is a list of the years in which the same hitter has led his league in both home runs and walks. In the National League, it has happened in 2001, 1998, 1985, 1983, 1981, 1956, 1952, 1951, 1949, 1942, 1930, 1926, 1915, 1879.

In the American League, it has happened in 2017, 2011, 2006, 1981-Dwight Evans in a tie for most homers, 1972, 1970, 1969, 1967-Harmon Killebrew in a tie for most homers, 1958, 1955, 1949, 1947, 1944, 1942, 1941, 1938-Hank Greenberg in a tie for most walks, 1936, 1931-Babe Ruth in a tie for most homers, 1930, 1928, 1927, 1926, 1924, 1923, 1921, 1920.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 9, 2018 at 12:31 pm  Comments (1)  

Notes on the 3rd Game of the 2018 World Series

Boston’s 1-4 hitters were 0-28 with two walks. The Dodgers had runners on in 5 of the extra innings; the Sox had runners on in 6 of the extra innings. And, the Dodgers used 1 pitcher to get through the 7th, while Boston used 4. But then LA used 4 pitchers for their last 5 2/3rds innings, while Eovaldi was pitching the last 6+ innings.

Watching the game, in extras the Dodgers especially were swinging big, swinging for the homer, I thought, and it did wind up winning the game for them. It would’ve been nicer if Muncy had won it in the 15th. By the 18th, there was such a sense of weariness, almost, that it was hard to get extremely excited about Muncy’s homer. Maeda’s play to get the runner at third was the defensive gem of extra innings. That play seemed to snap Maeda on track and, given how things turned out, put LA on the path to win.

Published in: Uncategorized on October 27, 2018 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Franchise Batting and Pitching Leaders

Retrosheet has a nice feature where you can look at lists of a given MLB franchise’s leaders in batting and pitching, for both an entire career with the franchise and for a single season. If you think you know a lot of MLB history, you will probably find yourself surprised by some of the things you’ll learn from looking through the lists.

For example, the Cleveland Indians have had only one hitter hit more than 250 homers while playing for the franchise. It’s Jim Thome, with 337. However, the Indians do have a 2000-hit man, and two more players with more than 1900 hits for Cleveland.

Published in: Uncategorized on October 19, 2018 at 11:20 am  Comments (1)  

Home Run Hitters in the 1920s

Five players in the 1920s who weren’t Babe Ruth hit as many as 40 homers in a season. What’s particularly striking is that as late as 1926, Ruth was hitting twice as many homers as the 2nd place hitter: Ruth with 46 that year, and Hack Wilson, with 21, the only other hitter with more than 19. It took until 1929 for Ruth to no longer be regularly far in front of everyone else in homers hit.

This shows how few individual players in the 1920s were capable of, or perhaps willing to, adopt Ruth’s approach to hitting. I assume Rogers Hornsby, with 250 homers in the decade, was 2nd to Ruth. Hornsby’s homer stats in the decade are very erratic, year to year. It looks as if he would decide at the start of the year whether to try to hit for extra power, and that shaped his number of home runs for the coming season.

Published in: Uncategorized on July 2, 2018 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

The 2018 Seattle Mariners

At the close of play on June 13, the Mariners were 44-24, on pace for 105 wins. If they play .500 for the rest of the season, they will wind up 91-71. In 2003, the last time Seattle was near this pace, the team was 44-21 at the close of play on June 13. 2018 is apparently the third-best start to a season, through 68 games, in franchise history. You probably have heard it before, but it bears repeating that the Mariners are 44-24 despite Felix Hernandez, their best pitcher for the past decade, being their worst starting pitcher so far this year, and despite Robinson Cano, their best position player for the past half-decade, having missed the last month of games.

Published in: Uncategorized on June 14, 2018 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Few Notes About Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson’s 1913 season featured 11 shutouts, the most the Big Train ever had in a single season. Johnson had no more than 1 run allowed in his first 11 appearances (7 starts and 4 relief stints): this span included a 55 2/3rd innings scoreless streak. Later in 1913, he had stretches of 9 and 6 games without allowing more than 1 earned run in a game, and a 37-inning scoreless streak from late June to mid-July that was not part of either stretch.

People who know about Johnson seem to envision him as a great deadball pitcher who hung on in the 1920s, but was no longer an exceptional pitcher after the live ball came along. But, in 1924, Johnson led the AL in wins with 23, shutouts with 6, in ERA with a 2.72, and in games started with 38.

Only two batters hit more than 3 homers off Johnson. The player you expect, Babe Ruth, with 8 in 113 at-bats. The player you don’t expect, and probably haven’t heard of, is Joe Hauser, with 5 in 48 at-bats. Hauser, a great minor-league slugger, had only 80 MLB homers.

Published in: Uncategorized on May 9, 2018 at 9:52 am  Comments (1)  

Some Hank Aaron Stats

Aaron, you may already know, wore #44. He hit 44 homers in a season 4 different times. Three of those 44-homer seasons led the National League. In 1963, he stole 31 bases to go with 44 homers, making him an early member of the 30-30 club. In 1973, he hit 40 homers despite playing in just 120 games.

Aaron’s only 9 seasons of double-digit steals were in 9 consecutive years, 1960-68, the middle of his career. He drew 92 walks, a career high, in 1972, in just 129 games. Aaron’s best bids for a Triple Crown were in 1957, 1959, and 1963. In 1959, he had 39 homers, 123 RBIs, and led the NL with a .355 batting average. He finished third in homers and RBIs that year.

Also: the 1969 Braves won the NL West, but are little remembered because the Mets won the pennant and Series. Aaron hit 3 homers and had 7 RBIs as that Braves team was getting swept in the NLCS in 3 games.

Published in: Uncategorized on March 16, 2018 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jim Tobin, Only MLB Pitcher to Hit 3 Homers in a Game He Pitched

Jim Tobin pitched for three different franchises, in both leagues, and was a workhorse. After leading the league in complete games twice, innings pitched once, and losses once, his career ended pretty abruptly, without the tailoff in quality and/or durability that you expect, looking over his stats leading up to his final year. His last MLB game was in the 1945 World Series, and he was on the winning side of that Series: the Tigers beat the Cubs in 7 games. A very good hitter (for a pitcher), with a peak of 6 homers in a single season, he pinch-hit occasionally throughout his career.

You might have the impression that he was a bad pitcher who made up for it with his durability and hitting. Well, he did make an All-Star game, almost always posted an ERA at the 3.xx level, and came close to a .500 career record despite usually pitching for bad teams that hardly anyone remembers now. You can read Tobin’s stats at

Tobin had a day at the plate that rivals, or perhaps is, the greatest that a pitcher has ever had in a game he was pitching. He hit 3 homers for the Boston Braves in a game on May 13, 1942, as the Braves beat the Cubs, 6-5. Tobin’s last 2 homers tied the game, then put Boston ahead, 6-4. And, he pitched a complete game for the win. He died quite a while ago, before many fans were born, and I do not know why his MLB career ended so suddenly.

Also: Tobin threw 2 no-hitters, but one is not “legal” under MLB’s current rules, because the game was ended after 5 innings.

Published in: Uncategorized on February 16, 2018 at 12:27 pm  Comments (2)