Urban Shocker (image via Wikipedia)

So far, I’ve asked you to talk about Thurman Munson and David Cone. Today, I want to chat about a player who I see as something of a combination between the two—Urban Shocker.

Like Cone, Shocker was an elite starting pitcher who failed to win 200 games. Like Cone, this probably cost Shocker induction to the Hall of Fame. But like Cone, Shocker was so good during his peak that he just might deserve induction anyway.

Like Munson, Shocker died prematurely while still an active player. Like Munson, Shocker was still producing at a high level. While he had already turned 37, Shocker clearly had something left (in his final season, he went 18–6 with a 2.84 ERA, 137 ERA+, and 2.4 WAR). Shocker died in 1928 (less than a year after his 1927 Yankees won the World Series) of a weakened heart caused by pneumonia. He had suffered from a congenital heart problem for a while and reportedly hadn’t slept lying down in two years.

Shocker’s first season as a pitcher was also his first professional season (he was a catcher before then). Shocker pitched four minor league seasons north of the border in Ontario before being drafted by the Yankees in September of 1915. He was already about to turn 25 years old. His late start and his early death did not give him much time to leave his mark on the game.

But he certainly left a his mark.

  • Shocker won twenty games four consecutive years with the St. Louis Browns. In those four seasons, the Browns went .529 while Shocker had a .641 winning percentage. He combined to go 91–51 with a 132 ERA+ and 25.7 WAR.
  • Overall, he made 30 appearances just nine (consecutive) times, from 1919 to 1927. In those nine seasons, he was worth 45.8 WAR (5.1 WAR per season), while going 169–104 (.619) with a 125 ERA+.
  • Shocker could hit… and by “hit”, I mean “stand there and take a pitch”. He hit .209, but his OBP was .334. He was worth 4.0 WAR at the plate, enhancing his value. In 1924 and 1925, he walked 42 times in 193 plate appearances, posting an OBP of .402.
  • He led the league in victories once, strikeouts once, and BB/9 and SO/BB twice apiece. He finished in the Top 10 in ERA in eight of his nine full seasons. He finished in the top 10 in wins seven times. He had seven Top 7 finishes in pitching WAR, leading the league once.

By wWAR, Shocker rates ahead of the Hall of Fame borderline, but not overwhelmingly over it. He is surrounded by Hall of Famers Three Finger Brown, Joe McGinnity, Don Sutton, and Whitey Ford as well as non-Hall of Famers like Dave Stieb, Wes Ferrell, Eddie Cicotte, and Jack Quinn. Just a reminder: wWAR gives no credit for what might have been, given Shocker’s early death.

While he was not finished with his career, it’s probably a safe bet that Shocker had a good 2–5 WAR left in him. Of course, that would have been enough to get him to 55 WAR and 200 victories.

Shocker’s teammates Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock were inducted to the Hall of Fame, though wWAR sees them a vastly inferior. Hoyt isn’t that far off, but Pennock is way behind. What did these two pitchers have that Shocker didn’t? Well, full careers. And 200 wins (specifically, 236 for Hoyt and 241 for Pennock).

Compared to other players oft-debated for the Hall of Fame, there’s not a ton out there about about Shocker. If you’re looking for some research to do, I’d recommend taking a stab at a SABR Bio Project bio for him. In the meantime, I one of the better links I found about Shocker was from our very own Dan. Alex Reisner also put together this handy PDF about Shocker.

What are your thoughts on Shocker?

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