Jeremy Sowers – last of a breed?

“Who?”, you say. If somehow you have never heard of Jeremy Sowers (or don’t remember him), he was a bottom-of-the-rotation guy for the Indians in the last decade. Got off to a real nice start in a half-year rookie campaign in 2006. In 14 starts, Sowers went 7-4 with 126 ERA+ and a couple of shutouts. He wasn’t striking out many (3.6 SO/9) but made up for it with unusually good control for a young pitcher (2.0 BB/9).

Unfortunately, the promise of that first season was not fulfilled, as Sowers’ control started to fail him. Not horrendously, but it’s a fine line between success and failure when you’re not striking out many. The result was ERA+ scores for his next three seasons all on the wrong side of the century mark (actually, not even close to that mark). Sowers hasn’t pitched in the majors since losing to Dice-K and the Red Sox in the season-ending series of the 2009 season.

No doubt, there will always be pitchers who start impressively and then fizzle. So, what breed might Sowers be the last of? I’ll tell you more after the jump.

To side-track just for a moment – I mentioned that Sowers had two shutouts in his rookie season (which tied him for the AL lead, Sowers’ only black ink). In fact, those shutouts came in consecutive starts, blanking the Twins and Mariners on a combined 9 hits, 7 strikeouts and just 2 walks. The man was razor sharp – he threw just 42 pitches for balls in those 18 innings of work.

Of the hundreds of pitchers to throw shutouts in consecutive starts since 1916, Sowers is among only a handful (okay, a couple of handfuls) never to throw another whitewash. Here are the career lines for those hurlers.

Rk Player SHO From To Age G GS CG W L W-L% SV IP BB SO ERA ERA+ HR Tm
1 Jeremy Sowers 2 2006 2009 23-26 72 71 2 18 30 .375 0 400.0 132 174 5.17 84 49 CLE
2 Rolando Arrojo 2 1998 2002 29-33 158 105 4 40 42 .488 6 700.0 255 512 4.55 108 83 TBD-TOT-BOS
3 Greg Harris 2 1988 1995 24-31 243 109 10 45 64 .413 16 909.1 303 605 3.98 102 103 SDP-TOT-COL-MIN
4 Dave Righetti 2 1979 1995 20-36 718 89 13 82 79 .509 252 1403.2 591 1112 3.46 114 95 NYY-SFG-TOT-CHW
5 Kurt Kepshire 2 1984 1986 24-26 51 46 2 16 15 .516 0 270.1 119 144 4.16 85 25 STL
6 Jim Hughes 2 1974 1977 22-25 78 62 16 25 30 .455 0 441.1 205 226 4.30 88 36 MIN
7 Don Rudolph 2 1957 1964 25-32 124 57 10 18 32 .360 3 450.1 102 182 4.00 97 54 CHW-TOT-WSA
8 Curt Barclay 2 1957 1959 25-27 44 29 5 10 9 .526 0 199.1 55 73 3.48 113 24 NYG-SFG
9 Dick Weik 2 1948 1954 20-26 76 26 3 6 22 .214 1 213.2 237 123 5.90 73 15 WSH-TOT-DET
10 Ed Klieman 2 1943 1950 25-32 222 32 10 26 28 .481 33 542.0 239 130 3.49 101 17 CLE-TOT-PHA
11 Clem Hausmann 2 1944 1949 24-29 64 25 7 9 14 .391 4 263.0 131 73 4.21 82 11 BOS-PHA
12 Ray Prim 2 1933 1946 26-39 116 34 10 22 21 .512 4 351.0 72 161 3.56 107 21 WSH-PHI-CHC
13 Bill Weir 2 1936 1939 25-28 29 11 4 6 4 .600 0 106.1 50 42 3.55 105 4 BSN
14 Roxie Lawson 2 1930 1940 24-34 208 83 34 47 39 .547 11 851.2 512 258 5.37 89 70 CLE-DET-TOT-SLB
15 Cy Moore 2 1929 1934 24-29 147 39 13 16 26 .381 3 466.1 168 181 4.86 86 29 BRO-PHI
16 Spades Wood 2 1930 1931 21-22 24 17 6 6 9 .400 0 122.0 78 56 5.61 78 6 PIT
17 Al Grabowski 2 1929 1930 27-28 39 14 5 9 6 .600 1 157.0 57 65 4.07 123 7 STL
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/30/2013.

In fact, most of those lines look a lot like Sowers’, and the ones in red, like Sowers, had their shutouts in their rookie seasons. So, maybe a topic there for a future post, but back to the topic of this one.

In Sowers’ final game in 2009, he issued a 2-out walk to Kevin Youkilis in what would be his last inning of work. That ran Sowers’ season walk total to 52 while his strikeouts stood at 51. Since then, no pitcher has allowed more walks than strikeouts in a season of 100 IP or more.

Maybe you’re saying “So what?”. However, 3 seasons in a row without any such pitchers is unprecedented. In fact, with a single exception, there has been at least one such pitcher in every prior season back to 1901. And, many more than one such pitcher in many of those years. Here’s what those data look like.

More Walks than Strikeouts

In fact, pitchers with more walks than strikeouts were not uncommon at all until the early 1950s, and even constituted a majority of 100 IP pitchers in the peak years. The change through the 1950s, though, was as dramatic as it was rapid. From 58 pitchers in 1949, the slide went all the way down to a just a single such pitcher 14 years later, in 1963.

The rule changes and further expansion started a spike up in 1969 that continued into the 1980s. However, the last season in double-digits was 12 in 1983 and, since 1991, there has been only one season (2003) with more than 5 such pitchers.

Obviously, with strikeout totals climbing every year and batters continuing to swing for the fences with abandon, it’s no surprise pitchers like Sowers have all but disappeared. It’s interesting to speculate, though, on what happened in the 1950s that seems to have started this change, as indicated by the chart below.

Strikeout and Walk Levels

So, not surprisingly, strikeouts and walks were indeed pretty close to each other most of the time until the beginning of the 1950s. Then strikeouts started shooting up very rapidly, increasing by almost 50% (highlighted area) in just 10 years (1953 to 1963), a rate considerably faster than recently or at any other time. Why was that?

My hypothesis is that it had to do with a couple of young talents, one from Oklahoma and the other from Alabama. Both debuted as the 1950s got started, manning center field in ballparks on opposite banks of the Harlem River. Preceding their debut by a few years was another young talent, a Californian who also manned center field on a New York team. This trio, of course, was Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider.

These players, with their success and the the attractiveness of their brand of baseball, began to challenge the idea that striking out was baseball’s greatest sin, whether at a healthy clip (Mays), a whole lot (Snider), or even more than that (Mantle). Others tried this more aggressive style of hitting and many of them succeeded with it as well. The results of this change in batting approach are evident in the chart below showing trends in big-ball and small-ball results.

Post-War Batting Trends

What did these changes look like on the diamond? Let’s look first at the pitchers. The table below shows statistics for all pitchers logging 500+ IP during the indicated periods.

1946-521953-63
500+ IP Count110179
SO/9 > 61.8%17.9%
SO/9 > 513.6%47.5%
SO/9 > 440.0%83.2%
SO/9 < 315.5%1.1%

 

Obviously, some pretty dramatic changes. In the 1946-52 period, less than half of these pitchers had a SO/9 better than 4. That more than doubled to over 80% of pitchers in the 1953-63 period. Similarly, the ultra-low strikeouts group below 3 SO/9 had virtually vanished for the 1953-63 period after comprising almost one-sixth of pitchers in the immediate post-war period. Also worth noting are the 30 pitchers represented in both periods. Though strikeout totals normally decline as pitchers age, 17 of these 30 pitchers saw their SO/9 rates increase, by an average of over half a strikeout.

For the hitters, below are statistics for the high and low strikeout rate hitters with 2000+ PAs during the indicated periods.

2000+ PAs1946-521953-60
SO/PA > 8% Count5495
SO/PA > 10%46.3%67.4%
SO/PA > 12%24.1%45.3%
SO/PA > 15%5.6%12.6%
SO/PA < 6% Count2917
SO/PA < 5%62.1%47.1%
SO/PA < 4%37.9%23.5%

 

The ratio between the high-strikeout hitters (more than 8% of PAs) and the low-strikeout hitters (less than 6% of PAs) underwent a sea change in the two periods, from about a 2:1 ratio immediately after the war to almost 6:1 in the later period. The profile of the high and low strikeout groups also changed. Players striking out more than 10% of the time comprised less than half the high-strikeout group in 1946-52 period but over two-thirds of this group in the 1953-60 period. The reverse change happened in the low strikeout group where hitters striking out less than 5% of the time reduced from almost two-thirds of the group to less than half.

To finish off and pay tribute to a breed of pitcher we’re not likely to see again, here are a few lists. First, the longest careers for pitchers yielding more walks than the strikeouts they make.

Rk Player IP SO/BB From To Age G GS CG SHO W L W-L% BB SO ERA ERA+ HR Tm
1 Ted Lyons 4161.0 0.96 1923 1946 22-45 594 484 356 27 260 230 .531 1121 1073 3.67 118 222 CHW
2 Sad Sam Jones 3883.0 0.88 1914 1935 21-42 647 487 250 36 229 217 .513 1396 1223 3.84 104 151 CLE-BOS-NYY-SLB-WSH-CHW
3 Earl Whitehill 3564.2 0.94 1923 1939 24-40 541 473 226 16 218 185 .541 1431 1350 4.36 100 192 DET-WSH-CLE-CHC
4 Tom Zachary 3126.1 0.79 1918 1936 22-40 533 408 186 24 186 191 .493 914 720 3.73 107 118 PHA-WSH-SLB-TOT-NYY-BSN-BRO
5 Bucky Walters 3104.2 0.99 1934 1950 25-41 428 398 242 42 198 160 .553 1121 1107 3.30 116 155 PHI-TOT-CIN-BSN
6 Bump Hadley 2945.2 0.91 1926 1941 21-36 528 355 135 14 161 165 .494 1442 1318 4.24 105 167 WSH-TOT-SLB-NYY
7 Howard Ehmke 2820.2 0.99 1915 1930 21-36 427 338 199 20 166 166 .500 1042 1030 3.75 104 103 BUF-DET-BOS-TOT-PHA
8 Guy Bush 2722.0 0.99 1923 1945 21-43 542 308 151 16 176 136 .564 859 850 3.86 104 151 CHC-PIT-TOT-BSN-STL-CIN
9 Danny MacFayden 2706.0 0.91 1926 1943 21-38 465 334 158 18 132 159 .454 872 797 3.96 101 112 BOS-TOT-NYY-BSN-PIT-WSH
10 Wes Ferrell 2623.0 0.95 1927 1941 19-33 374 323 227 17 193 128 .601 1040 985 4.04 116 132 CLE-BOS-TOT-NYY-BRO-BSN
11 Willis Hudlin 2613.1 0.80 1926 1944 20-38 491 328 155 11 158 156 .503 846 677 4.41 102 118 CLE-TOT-SLB
12 Eddie Rommel 2556.1 0.83 1920 1932 22-34 500 249 147 18 171 119 .590 724 599 3.54 121 138 PHA
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/31/2013.

And, the lowest career SO/BB ratios (min. 2000 IP).

Rk Player SO/BB IP From To Age G GS CG SHO W L W-L% BB SO ERA ERA+ HR Tm
1 Vern Kennedy 0.66 2025.2 1934 1945 27-38 344 263 126 7 104 132 .441 1049 691 4.67 95 130 CHW-DET-TOT-SLB-CLE
2 Jack Russell 0.73 2050.2 1926 1940 20-34 557 182 71 3 85 141 .376 571 418 4.46 97 83 BOS-TOT-WSH-DET-CHC-STL
3 Bill Dietrich 0.74 2003.2 1933 1948 23-38 366 253 92 17 108 128 .458 890 660 4.48 92 129 PHA-TOT-CHW
4 Milt Gaston 0.74 2105.0 1924 1934 28-38 355 269 127 10 97 164 .372 836 615 4.55 96 114 NYY-SLB-WSH-BOS-CHW
5 Tom Zachary 0.79 3126.1 1918 1936 22-40 533 408 186 24 186 191 .493 914 720 3.73 107 118 PHA-WSH-SLB-TOT-NYY-BSN-BRO
6 Willis Hudlin 0.80 2613.1 1926 1944 20-38 491 328 155 11 158 156 .503 846 677 4.41 102 118 CLE-TOT-SLB
7 Eddie Rommel 0.83 2556.1 1920 1932 22-34 500 249 147 18 171 119 .590 724 599 3.54 121 138 PHA
8 Bob Harmon 0.83 2054.0 1909 1918 21-30 321 240 143 15 107 133 .446 762 634 3.33 90 44 STL-PIT
9 Rip Sewell 0.85 2119.1 1932 1949 25-42 390 243 137 20 143 97 .596 748 636 3.48 108 116 DET-PIT
10 Clarence Mitchell 0.87 2217.0 1911 1932 20-41 390 278 145 12 125 139 .473 624 543 4.12 95 116 DET-CIN-BRO-PHI-TOT-STL-NYG
11 Jimmy Ring 0.87 2357.1 1917 1928 22-33 389 294 154 9 118 149 .442 953 833 4.13 96 105 CIN-PHI-NYG-STL
12 Sid Hudson 0.88 2181.0 1940 1954 25-39 380 279 123 11 104 152 .406 835 734 4.28 95 136 WSH-TOT-BOS
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/31/2013.

And, the pitchers who couldn’t get above a career 1.0 SO/BB ratio (min. 1000 IP), even with a reasonable strikeout rate (at least, for the time).

Rk Player SO/9 SO/BB IP From To Age G GS CG SHO GF W L W-L% BB SO ERA ERA+ HR Tm
1 Mickey McDermott 5.17 0.90 1316.2 1948 1961 19-32 291 156 54 11 86 69 69 .500 838 757 3.91 106 86 BOS-WSH-NYY-KCA-DET-TOT
2 Tommy Byrne 5.06 0.74 1362.0 1943 1957 23-37 281 170 65 12 72 85 69 .552 1037 766 4.11 97 98 NYY-TOT-SLB
3 Turk Lown 5.01 0.97 1032.0 1951 1962 27-38 504 49 10 1 255 55 61 .474 590 574 4.12 97 105 CHC-TOT-CHW
4 Jack Wilson 4.69 0.98 1131.2 1934 1942 22-30 281 121 50 5 98 68 72 .486 601 590 4.59 103 73 PHA-BOS-TOT
5 Ken Chase 4.50 0.84 1165.0 1936 1943 22-29 188 160 62 4 18 53 84 .387 694 582 4.27 96 55 WSH-BOS-TOT
6 Kirby Higbe 4.48 0.99 1952.1 1937 1950 22-35 418 238 98 11 104 118 101 .539 979 971 3.69 102 116 CHC-TOT-PHI-BRO-PIT-NYG
7 Walt Masterson 4.45 0.92 1649.2 1939 1956 19-36 399 184 70 15 115 78 100 .438 886 815 4.15 97 101 WSH-TOT-BOS-DET
8 Monte Pearson 4.43 0.95 1429.2 1932 1941 23-32 224 191 94 5 24 100 61 .621 740 703 4.00 112 82 CLE-NYY-CIN
9 Doc Scanlan 4.20 0.96 1252.0 1903 1911 22-30 181 149 102 15 26 65 71 .478 608 584 3.00 93 15 PIT-TOT-BRO
10 Roy Parmelee 4.13 0.97 1120.1 1929 1939 22-32 206 145 55 5 41 59 55 .518 531 514 4.27 89 68 NYG-STL-CHC-PHA
11 Bump Hadley 4.03 0.91 2945.2 1926 1941 21-36 528 355 135 14 108 161 165 .494 1442 1318 4.24 105 167 WSH-TOT-SLB-NYY
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/31/2013.

Lastly, the ultra-low SO/BB pitchers (the ones who couldn’t strike you out). These guys had careers allowing more than 2 walks for each strikeout they made (not surprisingly, none reached 1000 IP).

Rk Player IP SO/BB From To Age G GS CG SHO W L W-L% BB SO ERA ERA+ HR Tm
1 Sugar Cain 987.1 0.49 1932 1938 25-31 178 137 58 2 53 60 .469 569 279 4.83 96 67 PHA-TOT-CHW
2 Claude Willoughby 841.1 0.43 1925 1931 26-32 219 102 33 4 38 58 .396 406 175 5.84 81 56 PHI-PIT
3 Les Sweetland 740.2 0.44 1927 1931 25-29 161 96 38 3 33 58 .363 358 159 6.10 77 68 PHI-CHC
4 Ernie Wingard 688.1 0.32 1924 1927 23-26 145 77 36 0 29 43 .403 317 101 4.64 96 32 SLB
5 Ted Wingfield 553.1 0.38 1923 1927 23-27 113 58 31 3 24 44 .353 181 68 4.18 103 24 WSH-TOT-BOS
6 Bob Kline 441.2 0.45 1930 1934 20-24 148 37 8 1 30 28 .517 195 87 5.05 87 24 BOS-TOT
7 Curt Fullerton 423.0 0.49 1921 1933 22-34 115 43 18 0 10 37 .213 211 104 5.11 83 20 BOS
8 Curly Ogden 377.2 0.47 1922 1926 21-25 93 38 19 4 18 19 .486 186 88 3.79 108 13 PHA-TOT-WSH
9 George Grant 347.1 0.49 1923 1931 20-28 114 23 8 1 15 20 .429 182 89 5.65 75 16 SLB-CLE-PIT
10 Skinny Graham 278.0 0.49 1924 1929 24-29 67 37 9 0 11 22 .333 125 61 5.02 80 11 BSN-DET
11 Joe Giard 277.2 0.41 1925 1927 26-28 68 36 11 4 13 15 .464 173 71 5.96 75 21 SLB-NYY
12 Boots Poffenberger 267.1 0.44 1937 1939 21-23 57 32 13 1 16 12 .571 149 65 4.75 103 17 DET-BRO
13 Bobby Reis 242.2 0.36 1935 1938 26-29 69 9 5 0 10 13 .435 144 52 4.27 88 12 BRO-BSN
14 Don Songer 202.1 0.45 1924 1927 25-28 71 17 5 1 10 14 .417 98 44 3.38 117 9 PIT-TOT
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/31/2013.

Comments

Jeremy Sowers – last of a breed? — 45 Comments

  1. Doug, this is a terrific piece of work. But I find the two sortable tables a bit confusing. Maybe you could repeat the left-column entries “SO/9” and “SO/PA” in the subsequent rows, instead of leaving those empty? That’s what hindered my comprehension at first.

    • Thanks John,

      I’ve redone the tables per your suggestion.

      The “count” table entries are the number of pitchers or hitters in the described group. The % table entries should be interpreted as showing the % of the group represented by the group subset identified in the row.

  2. BTW, my guess for Sowers’s “last of breed” feat was his consecutive shutouts with 4 Ks or less. But Cliff Lee matched it in 2011 — adding a third shutout with 5 Ks.

    Ironically, that was the year Lee set career highs of 238 Ks and 9.2 SO/9.

    • My thought was that “last of breed” referred to more walks than SO with over 100 IP’s. But I suspect he was being a little melodramatic to get our attention.

      And does anyone know why there was such a huge spike in the walk rate in the American League in 1949 or ’50 and why/how the trend reversed itself so suddenly? I knew that it happened- I actually though it was like a 3 or 4 year trend- but I don’t ever recall reading any sort of explanation. Yes, I know that strikeouts were on the rise at the time but it seems there has to be more to it than that.

  3. In Sowers’ second shutout, he out dueled Felix Hernandez(!). The Indians won 1-0 with the lone run coming on Shin-Soo Choo’s first career home run.

    • Ed, nice find on the Choo HR. He only hit 3 that year, but all were somewhat notable. His 2nd was a grand slam off Josh Beckett, and his 3rd came in his first meeting with countryman Jae Wong Seo.

      And wow, I’d forgotten that Choo came over from Seattle in a deadline deal for Ben Broussard. Choo’s HR off King Felix was his first game with Cleveland, 2 days after the trade.

      I guess the M’s thought they were contenders in 2006 — 3 games back (but also 3 games under) when the deal went down. But the A’s caught fire with a 25-6 run and won the division, while Seattle just drifted away.

      • John A. – Less than a month earlier, Seattle traded Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland for Eduardo Perez. Mariner fans must still be seething over those trades.

  4. BTW, Sowers was the #6 pick in the 2004 draft. That draft is the perfect example of what a crapshoot the MLB draft is. After the Padres made the mistake of drafting Matt Bush first overall, the Tigers followed up by taking Justin Verlander. The next 6 picks after Verlander were also pitchers. Whereas Verlander has 33.6 career WAR, the 6 pitchers taken after him have a combined 9.8 WAR. Here’s the breakdown:

    #3 Philip Humber (2.3)
    #4 Jeff Niemann (3.2)
    #5 Mark Rogers (1.1)
    #6 Jeremy Sowers (1.0)
    #7 Homer Bailey (2.3)
    #8 Wade Townsend (never made the majors)

    So the second best pitcher (so far) hasn’t even been worth 1/10th of Verlander!

    • What happened to Sowers? He was clearly a prospect, and his k/9 rate was fine in the lower minors, and even acceptable overall for a crafty lefty type for his entire minor league career, yet it totally fell off the table once he reached the majors. Then upon his return to the minors, he never quite regained his former self, and was out of baseball quickly. In a game that values lefties, seems odd.

      Did he suffer an arm injury at some point?

    • Humber, Niemann and Townsend all played for Rice in 2003 when the Owls won the College World Series. Humber threw a five hitter in the clincher. David Aardsma and Paul Janish were also on that team.

  5. In 1991, Scott Erickson had a great first full year, winning 20 years and finishing 2nd in the CYA voting . Also, the Twins won the WS. So… lots of people were predicting a geat career for him.

    However… Bill James wrote (something like) “Whoa, hold on here – did you notice his low strikeout rate? It doesn’t bode well for his future, he’s probably not going to be great.” His SO/9 IP was 4.8, compared to the AL average of 5.7.

    And sure enough- while Erickson had a pretty good career, pitching 15 years, nearly 400 games and nearly 2400 innings, he never had a season as good as his 1991 again, finishing with a career 98 ERA+. His career SO/9 IP was also 4.8, which meant he lost ground over his career relative to the league.

    • OOPS! – I meant “…winning 20 GAMES” (Homer Simpson-like “D’oh!!”).

      In 1949, Tommy Byrne of the Yankees had 129 SO and 179 BB(!) in 196 innings. He was 15-7 with a 3.72 ERA for the World Champion Yankees, their third best starter. How did he do it? Well, despite his ridiculous walk rate (8.2 per 9 IP!),he had the highest AL SO rate (5.9),and the lowest hits rate (5.7).

      This seems to be the peak of the “when in doubt, don’t challenge the power hitters, just walk ’em” era. All four Yankees regular starters walked as many or more than they struck out, as well as their fifth part-time starter.

      • Looking at the top-ten American League walk leaders right at the end of the 40’s & for the first few years of the 50’s are really an eye opener. You really only associate those kinds of numbers with someone like Ryan or Johnson or some one like that.

        • … and early Bob Feller. Also, the league-leading BB totals from the Dead Ball Era (1904-19) seem surprisingly high for a period with markedly low offense.

          Also surprising was that no one has had more than 125 walks in a year since 1992.

          This is what I love so much about this blog, that we can start in one place (Jeremy Sowers), and end up on a somewhat related but different topic.

      • Nice find, Lawrence.

        Get your entire rotation to walk more than they strikeout, and win the World Series. Pretty crafty strategy by Casey.

        The Yankees struck with that approach right to the end, winning their final two to edge out the Red Sox by a game. In the first of those two: walk 7 strikeout 7; in the last: walk 5, strikeout 4.

    • Erickson was probably pitching his way out of the league until he figured out how to get a few more swings and misses without a corresponding jump in his walk rate for a couple years late in his career. If that hadn’t happened I suspect his career would have been 2 or 3 full seasons shorter than it was.

  6. Man reading this article brings back memories of playing Out of the Park Baseball five or so years back. I would always play as the Indians and I always tried to bring up Sowers too soon to be a back of the rotation guy for me. Looks like my approach to him was about in line with the Indians.

    • Lopat had only one season of more than 100 SO. Here is a list of pitchers with more than 2400 IP and never had a season of at least 100 SO.

      Bill Sherdel
      Danny MacFayden
      Ed Rommel
      Fred Fitzsimmons
      Guy Bush
      Red Lucas
      Sad Sam Jones
      Tom Zachary
      Willis Hudlin
      Ted Lyons
      Ned Garver

  7. Derek Lowe accomplished this feat last year with the Indians (45 walks, 41 Ks, 119 IPs) before being released and picked up by the Yankees where he narrowly escaped doing it for the full season (51 walks, 55 Ks).

    And in 2009, the year that Sowers accomplished the feat, the Indians nearly had a second pitcher accomplish it. Aaron Laffey had 57 walks and 59 Ks in 121.2 innings.

    Overall the Indians’ organization seem oddly obsessed with soft tossing starters. In addition to the players already mentioned there have been such luminaries as Mitch Talbot, David Huff, Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez and Roberto Hernandez (who accomplished the feat in 2008 and nearly repeated it in 2009). As a team, the Indians have finished in the bottom three in AL strikeouts for 5 straight seasons.

    • At least the Tribe can look back with pride at their 1968 staff. Led by Sudden Sam McDowell, they had more strikeouts than hits allowed, the only team to do so until the Rays, Giants and Nationals did the same in the past two seasons.

      McDowell personally turned this trick for 8 straight seasons (1964-71), compiling over 2000 strikeouts, while allowing fewer than 1500 hits.

  8. Some fun names on that last list (SO/BB less than 0.5).

    I had never heard of any of them, but I like Sugar Cain, Les Sweetland, and Boots Poffenberger.

    Also, Interesting to Rags on the list of guys with consecutive shutouts with no other shutouts in career. Obviously moving to the pen aided that “accomplishment”, but I still would have thought he had 3 Shutouts in his starting career. I would have thought he had one in 1981 when he made 15 starts with a 2.05 ERA (just missed the ERA title by a few innings). His shutouts came in 1983, his last year as a starter.

    • Those names just sound like soft tossers, don’t they. Can you imagine a flame thrower named Boots Poffenberger? Just would never happen.

      Also on that last list is Ernie Wingard. He has the distinction of having the lowest game score in a complete game victory, netting a score of 6 for “shutting down” the White Sox 15-11 in this game.

    • Good question, Howard. To your point, Trout threw consecutive shutouts in 1987, the eighth and ninth of his career, and then never threw another. However, to clarify my meaning, I was referring to pitchers with a single instance of consecutive shutouts and who never threw another one, either before or after. Thus, all of the pitchers in the list show a career shutout total of two.

      Interestingly, those shutouts were the last two starts of Trout’s tenure with the Cubs, before being dealt to the Yankees in an A-S break deal. The division-leading Bombers were evidently looking to shore up their left-handed pitching for the second half, but it sure didn’t work out. After starting 4-3, 3.00 with Chicago, Trout crashed to 0-4, 6.60 with New York, who dealt him to Seattle in the off-season. After being in the AL East lead, or within 3 games of it, every day from May 8 to Aug 21, the Yankees stumbled down the stretch, finishing 26-33 and a distant 4th.

      • Somebody has to cite Steinbrenner’s crowing to Piniella after arranging the Trout deal, so I’ll be that guy: “I just won you the pennant!”

        Yanks led by 3 at the time of the trade, went 34-39 and finished 9 back. :)

      • I don’t know how many times this has to be said:

        The Trout trade was far more damaging to the Cubs than to the Yankees, but it was disastrous to Steve Trout. 1) At the time of the trade the Cubs were in the hunt for the division, and pitching was their weakness. When Trout threw the two shutouts everyone on the team and in the stands and the media audience thought that here might be the breakthrough, if Steve was getting back to the form that he’d shown, not great, but decent, in some of his earlier years. Steve was a Chicago area kid, grew up in the south suburbs where his dad had landed after his playing days, and he, Steve, had spent his entire big league career with the Sox and Cubs. He was emotionally up and down, insecure, living in his father Dizzy’s shadow, but he was comfortable in Chicago and the pair of shutouts meant something—he’d shown the Cubs that he was back and ready to contribute.

        2) So what happened? Dallas Green engineered the trade very cynically. The Cubs players and their fans felt—rightly—that management was giving up on a team mid-season that had a chance, and not long after that the team went into a tailspin and finished at the bottom of the division. Steve Trout was the last person in the world to be able to face the New York circus; he self-destructed and never recovered.

        I’m not one to complain much about the myopic view of the New York-centric, but this is about the third time in a year that this story has been told backward.

        ATTENTION: SteveTrout was the big victim. The Cubs and their fans were victims secondarily. What happened to the Yankees was inconsequential, considering the talent level they already had.

        • nsb, good story. I’m sure neither Doug nor I meant to disparage Steve Trout, nor to lay the ’87 Yankees’ fade at his feet. The story of Steinbrenner trading for Trout is just a funny example of George’s unproductive meddling in his team’s construction, nothing more.

          • As you may have guessed by now, I’m interested in the human side of things, and while I suppose Steinbrenner was human enough, Dallas Green was either sub- or in-. There’s an irony in the fact that Green’s next position after the Cubs was working for Steinbrenner. Something I’d forgotten: Later in 1987 Green accused the Cubs players of quitting. They didn’t quit so much as they died: they felt the shiv of Green’s betrayal stuck in their backs.

  9. I think Derek Jeter got robbed of the 2006 MVP award. There was a lot of jealousy involved in the voting. Jeter has a career OPS+ of 117. Paul Konerko has a career OPS+ of 121.

    • Morneau won, though Santana, Sizemore, and Wells came 1, 2, and 3 in WAR while Jeter came in 9th and Morneau around 20th it looks like.

      • He had cases in ’99, ’06 and ’09, although I can’t say there were years when he was clearly robbed. Pedro had the best WAR in ’99, although pitchers and MVP awards are never easy to predict. They have a tendency to win when they had great years and there was no clear consensus among position players. Jeter would have been a fine choice in ’99. Surprised he finished as far back as he did, although he was probably hurt playing on a Yankee team that had won the World Series in two of the three prior years, including the historic ’98 squad. By ’99, the media assumed those teams were so great that no player therefore could be the MVP. Never underestimate the collective group think of the BBWAA once there’s a narrative.

        He wasn’t the best choice in ’06, but like ’99, he was better candidate than the winner. Morneau wasn’t even the best MVP candidate on his own team. ’09 Mauer deserved it more than Jeter, who had another fine campaign.

        Short of blowing away the MVP field like Trout did in 2012 (oh, wait, he didn’t win), winning the MVP requires the right story, being on the right team, and having an MVP-level year when there is not a clearly better candidate. It’s a little bit of timing and luck. Jeter just hasn’t quite had the right luck of timing when it comes to MVPs. Is this a sign of Derek Jeter being unlucky? Yes, for Jeter this is as bad as it gets in his charmed life.

        • Mike, it’s been 7 years. Jeter had a great year and Morneau won because of the Boston sports writers not voting for Jeter.

          • No idea what you mean by that Tim. Jeter was named on all the ballots in 2006. He was first or second on all ballots except for a 4th place and a 6th place vote. No idea who gave him the 4th place vote but the 6th place vote came from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times. Jeter still would have lost even if those 4th and 6th place votes would have been changed to 2nd place votes.

          • Boston writers not voting for Jeter. Hah hah. Poor Derek. Ortiz hit 54 HRs that year, led the league in RBIs, which, no matter what (see Cabrera 2012), are going to get attention in the MVP voting, plus he had a higher WAR than Jeter, and he didn’t get a first place vote from a Boston writer or any writer at all.

    • David Cone’s perfect game was his last shutout.

      I don’t know where to post this comment so I will do it here. Last July I stated that John Miller of the Yankees and Dodgers was the only player to hit a HR in his first and last appearances (not that I expect anyone to remember). It turns out there is another one. Paul Gillespie, who played for the Cubs during WWII, also did it. The last thing I want to do is misinform my fellow HHS readers.

      • Mike Warren’s no-hitter was his only career shutout (so it was both his first and his last). There may be others who did the same.

          • Kent Mercker also threw the first six innings of a shared no-hitter by the Braves on September 11th of 1991. Mark Wohlers and Alejandro Pena finished the game off for Atlanta.

          • Some of the other pitchers whose last shutout was a no-hitter.

            Devern Hansack
            George Culver
            Bill McCahan
            Ernie Koob
            Pascual Perez (5 inn)
            Dwight Gooden
            Bob Keegan
            Ed Head

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