Unusual recipe for 200 wins

If a pitcher never gets more than 17 wins in a season and retires at age 34, what are his chances of winning 200?

Since 1945, eleven pitchers have reached 200 wins by their age-33 season. Ten of them had a 20-win season by the time they won #200, and nine did it more than once, totaling forty-four 20-win seasons. The 11th guy just plugged away:

Rk Player W From To Age G GS CG SHO GF L W-L% IP H R ER BB SO ERA ERA+
1 Robin Roberts 233 1948 1960 21-33 503 454 270 35 40 189 .552 3622.1 3507 1506 1361 695 1817 3.38 116
2 Jim Palmer 225 1965 1979 19-33 447 420 194 51 11 122 .648 3275.1 2691 1081 968 1092 1927 2.66 132
3 Catfish Hunter 224 1965 1979 19-33 500 476 181 42 6 166 .574 3449.1 2958 1380 1248 954 2012 3.26 105
4 Greg Maddux 221 1986 1999 20-33 436 432 93 28 3 126 .637 3068.2 2761 1104 959 691 2160 2.81 144
5 Juan Marichal 221 1960 1971 22-33 399 390 229 50 8 109 .670 3071.1 2674 1102 930 607 2122 2.73 129
6 Tom Seaver 219 1967 1978 22-33 423 417 188 47 5 127 .633 3239.2 2568 991 905 888 2756 2.51 140
7 Don Drysdale 209 1956 1969 19-32 518 465 167 49 34 166 .557 3432.0 3084 1292 1124 855 2486 2.95 121
8 Steve Carlton 207 1965 1978 20-33 452 434 187 38 7 149 .581 3234.1 2866 1244 1093 1113 2470 3.04 120
9 Don Sutton 205 1966 1978 21-33 469 454 146 49 10 155 .569 3290.2 2836 1241 1125 858 2378 3.08 110
10 Fergie Jenkins 203 1965 1976 22-33 450 391 212 39 31 150 .575 3111.0 2763 1217 1097 633 2344 3.17 120
11 Milt Pappas 202 1957 1972 18-33 490 436 128 42 32 152 .571 3024.0 2854 1249 1126 818 1680 3.35 111
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/29/2012.
  • Jim Palmer had 8 20-win seasons (counting the year of #200), with a high of 23.
  • Fergie Jenkins had 7, with a high of 25. (Yet Pappas was 3 months younger than Jenkins when they won their respective 200ths.)
  • Robin Roberts had 6, with a high of 28.
  • Juan Marichal had 6, with a high of 26.
  • Tom Seaver had 5 (counting the year he won #200), with a high of 25.
  • Catfish Hunter had 5, with a high of 25.
  • Steve Carlton had 4, with a high of 27. (Pappas was 3 months younger than Carlton….)
  • Don Drysdale had 2, with a high of 25.
  • Greg Maddux had 2, both exactly 20.
  • Don Sutton had one 21-win season.
  • Milt Pappas never won more than 17 in a season.

This column started with me looking at Raphy’s recent post and wondering which of those first eight pitchers reached 200 wins the fastest and youngest, despite never winning 20. Each took at least 17 years (Chuck Finley) and was at least 36 at the time (Frank Tanana) — except for Pappas, who made it in his 16th year, at age 33.

Milt Pappas signed with the Orioles in 1957 as a “bonus baby” out of high school. After 3 games in class A (no wins), he made his big league debut at home against the Yankees, 3 months after turning 18. He held the Bombers scoreless in 2 innings of relief, retiring Enos Slaughter, Yogi Berra, Moose Skowron, Hank Bauer, Tony Kubek and pitcher Bob Turley. (Mickey Mantle and Jerry Lumpe singled.) His very next outing came in Yankee Stadium; he allowed his first run, but retired Mantle, who was on a 29-for-52 streak that raised his BA to .384. Pappas wound up that first year with no decisions in 4 relief games, allowing just that one run in 9 innings. He would not be going back to the minors.

He made the rotation out of spring training in ’58 and earned his first win a week before his 19th birthday. Pappas made 21 starts that year and went 10-10 with a 4.06 ERA, 89 ERA+, becoming the first pitcher in 20 years with a 10-win season before turning 20. In 1959, he logged 209 IP with a record of 15-9 and a 116 ERA+, earning his 14th career win on his 20th birthday; a year later he got win #27 on his 21st birthday and went 15-11, 113 ERA+.

And that pretty much defined Milt Pappas for 14 seasons. From 1959-72, he won 12 to 17 games every year but one, with a winning record all but two years and an ERA+ from 101 to 138 all but three years. Slowly but steadily, the wins mounted: #100 came 2 days after he turned 26, and he had 153 wins before turning 30.

His two losing records were 12-13 in ’68, and 6-10 in ’69, when he had a 101 ERA+ and was the unluckiest pitcher on the division-winning Braves.

Some of that luck was made up in 1972, when Pappas won 17 in just 28 starts and 195 IP. He did have a 138 ERA+, but only 80 strikeouts; he was the first SP in a decade with 16+ wins and less than 90 Ks. However, the luck did not extend as far as getting a gift strike call on Sept. 2, 1972, when Pappas retired the first 26 Padres and had a 2-2 count on pinch-hitter Larry Stahl (a .232 career hitter), but walked him; he then retired Garry Jestadt for the no-hitter. Jestadt was pinch-hitting for leadoff man Enzo Hernandez, who was hitting .184 and wound up at .195 for the year. (“You might not have an optimal lineup if … your best chance to avoid the no-hitter is to PH for your leadoff man with a guy who bats from the same side.”)

The ’72 no-hitter — 8 years to the day after he lost one with 2 down in the 8th on a single by Zoilo Versalles — was his 6th straight win in as many starts. That streak began on August 2, ran through his 200th win on Sept. 20 (a 6-2 CG) and carried to the end of the season, making him a perfect 11-0 in the last two months. It would be 25 years before another pitcher topped that streak. (Brad Radke won 12 straight starts in 1997.)

The next year, Pappas turned 34 and went 7-12 with a 92 ERA+.  Three of his last four starts were 6+ IP and 1 run or less, and he was one win shy of 100 in the NL — he would have been just the 4th to win 100+ in both leagues — but he decided to call it quits.

From his first start to his last, 74 different pitchers won 20 games in a season — but only Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson won more big-league games in that span than did Milt Pappas.

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78 Comments on "Unusual recipe for 200 wins"

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BK
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Pappas also hit 20 HR in his career – quite impressive. In 1962, 4 of his 6 hits for the season were HR’s. Yet he only batted .123 for his career.

birtelcom
Guest

Most Homers By a Pitcher in the Expansion Era (1961-2011):
1. Earl Wilson 33
2. Bob Gibson 24
3. Carlos Zambrano 23
4. Milt Pappas 18
T5. Mike Hampton and Jim Kaat 16

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Has anyone else ever hit four homers in a season while batting less than .087?

20 career homers with an ops+ of -3.
K’d in 43% of PA.

Doug
Guest

Voomo,

Your surmise is correct.

Clem Labine and Mickey Tettleton(!) had 3 HR with BA under .100. Labine got his 3 HR in only 31 AB, compared to 69 when Pappas had his 4 HR.

Doug
Guest

Pappas also formed one half of the youngest battery ever. On Sep 11, 1957, he and catcher Frank Zupo hooked up against the As. Their combined age: 36 years, 136 days.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL195709111.shtml

This same game also featured Zupo catching Dizzy Trout in Trout`s final career appearance (he faced 4 batters and gave up 2 singles, a double and a triple). This was one of only a handful of times that a teenage catcher has caught a forty-something pitcher.

Wine Curmudgeon
Guest

To this day, Pappas insists that he did strike out Stahl, and that the ump blew the call. It’s just another bit of Cubs lore we have to live with.

Ed
Guest

Wow, an entire post on Milt Pappas and no mention of him being traded for Frank Robinson! Anyway, I was just looking at the trade. It wasn’t straight up…the Orioles included Dick Simpson and Jack Baldschun. Interestingly, neither Simpson nor Baldschun played a single game for the Orioles organization. Simpson was acquired from the Angles on Dec. 2, 1965 and a week later included in the Robinson trade. Baldschun spent even less time with the Orioles organization. He was acquired from the Phillies on December 6th.

Tmckelv
Guest

Regarding the trade: Does anyone think that the Robinson trade has hurt Pappas’ overall perception? I feel that players involved in PERCEIVED “bad” trades, are thought of as lesser players than they actually were. Another example is Jim Fregosi.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

From the School Of Decieving Stats:
Pappas’ career W-L record is almost the same as Don Drysdales’: 209-164 versus 209-166. Almost all of Drysdales’ other stats are clearly better, though: 121 ERA+ vs 110 ERA+, to start. His WAR is about 20 higher than Pappas.

As for your question, I think it hurt Pappas a little, Fregosi not really. Fregosi was already respected before the trade: MVP votes in 8 years, 6 AS games, a GG. His career was already going into decline before the trade to the Mets.

Hartvig
Guest
Lawrence- I’m not as certain that Fergosi’s image didn’t maybe take at least a bit of a hit after the trade. Even through at the time of his retirement he was probably one of the 10 best shortstops of all time (or at least very close to it) he received virtually no support for the HOF at the time of his retirement. I’m sure that misconceptions about playing in the second dead ball era were probably a larger factor but I’m guessing that if you have taken a poll in 1970 asking who the best American League shortstop was in… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest
Hartvig, I think it’s more his decline after 1970 at the shockingly young age of 28. Up to then he was building up decent HOF credentials. It’s a pretty clear dividing point – if you look at his Leaderboards, he’s all over the place till 1970, then has exactly one mention after (1971, errors). He never played 100 games or had 300 AB after age 30, so even though he played till 36, he didn’t quite have the career totals. I think it’s more the career length (and most of his best years being in the 2nd deadball era) than… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest
And I agree that his early, rapid decline was probably the biggest factor in his lack of HOF support. And I also agree that the Brock & Robinson trades are bigger deals in my memory as well- although it’s also true that I followed baseball much more closely in the ’60’s than I did in the ’70’s. Truth is, I guess, that if the trade did or did not effect peoples perception of him it was at most a minor contributing factor as to why he is still underrated to this day. When I was writing this I did a… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Fregosi segued from player to manager in the same year – with different teams.

And it appears that it happened on the same day.
He played his last game on May 31st, drawing a walk in his final PA in Philly….

Dave Garcia managed the first 45 games for the Angels…

The Angels’ 46th game was on May 31st.
They lost 17-2.
Was Fegosi holding the scorecard?

Doug
Guest

Ryan had kind of a rough age 24 season, his first year as a mostly regular rotation starter (26 starts that year, previous high 19). Going with a comp group through age 23 (258-458 IP, 99-109 ERA+), there are a couple of HOFers, namely Marichal and Gossage.

48 pitchers in group. Most wins after Ryan and Marichal – Billy Pierce 211, Claude Osteen 196, Mike Torrez 185. Median career wins of 61. Median career ERA+ of 100. Other notables in group: Guy Bush, Johnny Podres, Mark Gubicza, Johnny Antonelli, Bruce Kison.

Ed
Guest
Actually it sounds like Pappas thinks Froemming should have just given it to him since he was so close. Pappas was actually ahead 1-2 in the count but threw three straight balls. You can see live video footage of the last three outs here. The first out of the 9th inning is interesting as one of the outfielders slips and falls and Billy Williams comes over to make the catch. Unfortunately, the camera angle of the last 3 balls is horrible so there’s no way to tell if the ump got the calls right or not. http://mediaburn.org/Video-Preview.128.0.html?uid=967 Here’s video footage… Read more »
Ed
Guest

My comment was obviously a response to Wine Curmudgeon. Anyway, here’s a great article on the missed perfect game with input from Pappas, Froemming, Stahl and Hundley (the catcher).

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=3019597

And here’s a great interview with Pappas re: his life in baseball. The story about how he helped Maris get to 61 home runs is particularly interesting. The Ted Williams anecdote is also priceless.

http://www.psacard.com/articles/article_view.chtml?artid=3819

Dr. Doom
Guest

JA, I love this post! Normally, the only way we get a post so focused on one player is when it’s of the HOF variety, or maybe when someone retires. I’m not saying I would like a post like this every day, but it’s a really cool change of pace. Kudos to you for a great idea, and stellar execution.

Also, any post mentioning Brad Radke is bound to make me happy, so this post pretty much has it all.

T-Bone
Guest

Pappas also had this strange happening after Baseball.

http://articles.latimes.com/1987-08-09/sports/sp-438_1_milt-pappas

Howard
Guest

Did I read that right? His “current fiance” moved in with him nine months after his wife disappeared? That is mighty fishy to me.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Pappas and the HOF – I vaguely recall a story that in late 1978, he was left off the 1979 HOF ballot. Pappas protested that he should be listed on the ballot. He got five votes, more than 21 of the 54 players listed on the 1979 ballot. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Hartvig
Guest

I does to me as well. Don’t remember any details or anything however.

Howard
Guest

Yes. In fact at the time he compared his own career numbers to those of Don Drysdale the similarity of which another poster mentioned earlier.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Howard,

It was ME! – see my post above/#36.

Howard
Guest

Sorry Lawrence. I have to admit that I was too lazy to scroll back up to your comment : )

JDV
Guest

I really enjoyed this post as well…great information and great links. Although I’m a life-long Oriole fan, my first memory of Pappas was his 1969 Topps card with the Braves, and then mostly as a Cub. Thanks to all.

Doug
Guest

John remarked that Pappas had won games on both his 20th and 21st birthdays.

The most times a pitcher has won a game on his birthday? 5 times by Bobo Newsom. Jerry Reuss and Tim Wakefield each did it 4 times.

Tmckelv
Guest

” (“You might not have an optimal lineup if … your best chance to avoid the no-hitter is to PH for your leadoff man with a guy who bats from the same side.”) ”

And especially when that pinch hitter is Gary Jestadt!!!!

For some reason, I love the early 1970’s San Diego Padres teams. Nate Colbert, Clarence Gaston, Clay Kirby, etc. I have always liked Enzo Hernandez. When I was a kid, I used to look at the back of his baseball cards and wonder why he had so many ABs for someone that was not good.

Library Dave
Guest

Sorry to go off topic: can someone write a separate post that shows just how ridiculous Yadier Molina’s new contract is?

bstar
Guest
I don’t think it’s a ridiculous contract. He’s far and away the best defensive catcher in baseball, and Fangraphs just added a wild pitch-blocking WAR component to their catcher defensive WAR, based on the really fantastic research done by Bojan Koprivica. Here’s the link to this groundbreaking article on The Hardball Times: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/another-one-bites-the-dust/ To the surprise of no one, Yadier will (or now has) benefited the most from this new metric. Surprisingly, since 2008, Brian McCann finished second behind Molina in the pitch-blocking category, giving a much-needed positive boost to his defensive abilities. Word is McCann also scored very high… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Ultimately I suppose it depends on how well he hits. His OPS+ and oWAR last year were both better than anything he’s done previously.

Bstar – In the chart labeled, “Best 15 Catchers Blocking Pitches, 2008-2011”, Molina is 2nd behind Quintero (McCann finished fourth). Were you looking at something else when you said McCann was 2nd behind Molina?

bstar
Guest

I was looking at the link provided by Jeff Appelmann in his 2/29 article at Fangraphs that lists the catchers who’ve benefited the most from this new metric. It lists Molina first and McCann second. They worked with the author of the article in implementing this stat, so I’m surprised there is a discrepancy here. Are your numbers from the actual article by Koprivica? Anyway, here’s the link:

http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=c&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=0&type=1&season=2011&month=0&season1=2008&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&players=0&sort=15,d

bstar
Guest

Ed, you were looking at a table that was a rate stat, based on 120 games/year. That’s why Wieters and Quintero were ahead of McCann. My table from Fangraphs lists cumulative effect from 2008 and on, so that’s why Molina and McCann were first and second, because they’ve caught way more games than Wieters or Quintero.

Ed
Guest

Gotcha. Yes, I was looking at the Hardball Times link.

e pluribus munu
Guest
I’m with Dr. Doom – this is a very neat post. Having followed Pappas since his start, I remember being very dismayed as he approached 200 wins. Post-1900 200-game winners were still a relatively select group of almost uniformly famous work horse pitchers (19th century statistics were still generally ignored, despite MacMillan having been out a few years), and Pappas seemed to diminish its status. How had this happened? Nothing about him stood out except his role in the Robinson trade. After all, he only achieved even a 17-win season at the tail end of his career. I found it… Read more »
Howard
Guest
In defense (sort of) of the Pappas/Robinson trade: over the first half of the 1965 season Pappas was the best pitcher in the American League, even better than Sam McDowell who had a fantastic season. Near the end of July Pappas was 10-3 with an ERA below 1.70. Of course he finished poorly but great first halves tend to stick out in people’s minds and when a young pitcher does it it gives hope that he can do it for a whole season. A case in point is Michael Pineda. He had an ERA over 5.00 in the second half… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

… perhaps saying more about the Yankee rotation than about Pineda. 🙂

birtelcom
Guest
Pappas was the all-time strikeout king for the Browns/Orioles franchise when he was traded for Robinson. Jack Powell (884 Ks for the Browns) had been the franchise leader in strikeouts since all the way back in 1909, until Pappas passed him in 1965 (July 9, 1965 if I have it figured correctly). Dave McNally passed him in 1970, but Pappas is still 6th on the franchise career strikeout list. Pappas had 944 Ks after 1965, his age 26 season. As of 1965, only 5 other American League pitchers had reached that many Ks by their age 26 season: Walter Johnson,… Read more »
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