Schreck as in heck (of a pitching staff)

No, not that Shrek. This one is catcher Ossee Schrecongost (I ran into Ossee in my last quiz, by dint of his 3 qualifying seasons with matching HR and triples: one with deuces; and two with singletons). Ossee played around the turn of the 20th century (and happily also went by the shorter “Schreck”). As I scrolled down his player page, I was struck by this:

Def. Games as C s c a p y
1901 AL  72 (5th)
1902 AL  71 (5th)
1903 AL  77 (2nd)
1904 AL  84 (4th)
1905 AL  114 (1st)
1906 AL  89 (3rd)
1907 AL  99 (4th)

      Putouts as C s c a p y
1902 AL  367 (1st)
1903 AL  514 (1st)
1904 AL  589 (1st) 
1905 AL  790 (1st) 
1906 AL  532 (1st) 
1907 AL  640 (1st) 

So, six straight seasons leading AL catchers in putouts (i.e. mostly catching his pitchers’ strikeouts) despite ranking mostly in the middle of the pack in games caught (excepting his one season leading the AL, Schreck played between 16 and 29 games fewer than the catcher placing first in games caught).

More on strikeout-dominant pitching staffs after the jump.

Schreck played those seasons for Connie Mack’s Athletics, who indeed sported some outstanding pitching staffs, led by HOFers Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank and Chief Bender. The Athletics led the AL in strikeouts for 9 consecutive seasons, starting in 1902. Note, though, that it wasn’t just their HOFers putting up the high strikeout totals, as can be seen from the list below (success does breed imitation, it would seem).

Rk Player IP SO/9 BB/9 WHIP From To Age G GS CG SHO GF W L W-L% BB SO ERA ERA+
1 Eddie Plank 2655.2 4.66 1.99 1.096 1902 1910 26-34 339 314 257 36 20 185 118 .611 586 1375 2.29 120
2 Rube Waddell 1869.1 7.59 2.38 1.062 1902 1907 25-30 251 212 168 37 29 131 82 .615 495 1576 1.97 146
3 Chief Bender 1799.0 5.45 2.05 1.056 1903 1910 19-26 251 201 172 24 47 125 76 .622 409 1090 2.32 114
4 Jack Coombs 1017.1 4.99 3.40 1.151 1906 1910 23-27 147 115 86 26 25 66 44 .600 384 564 2.05 122
5 Jimmy Dygert 986.0 5.32 3.50 1.198 1905 1910 20-25 175 105 62 16 49 57 49 .538 383 583 2.65 97
6 Weldon Henley 665.2 4.03 2.84 1.196 1903 1905 22-24 90 74 57 7 15 31 38 .449 210 298 2.93 95
7 Andy Coakley 530.2 4.51 2.71 1.229 1902 1906 19-23 74 61 43 5 12 31 23 .574 160 266 2.51 110
8 Cy Morgan 519.1 3.73 3.26 1.067 1909 1910 30-31 64 60 44 8 2 34 23 .596 188 215 1.59 150
9 Rube Vickers 423.0 4.30 2.17 1.111 1907 1909 29-31 81 41 25 7 31 22 23 .489 102 202 2.51 101
10 Harry Krause 346.1 5.43 2.47 1.054 1908 1910 19-21 52 34 27 9 12 25 15 .625 95 209 1.95 124
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/22/2014.

Philadelphia logged three pennants (incl. one WS title) and three 2nd place finishes in those 9 seasons, plus a 2nd WS title in 1911 when the As finished just a handful of strikeouts behind the White Sox staff.

How often has a team led its league in strikeouts for 5 or more consecutive seasons? Possibly more than you might think. Here’s the list.

[table id=171 /]


As with the Athletics at the beginning of the 20th century, a good number of the teams on this list were league champions. But, long streaks leading the league have become much less common, obviously because there are more teams, but also because of free agency and the ability of just about every team to be buyers in that market when they want to.

How has your team fared? Here are the rankings by season, since 1901.

Strikeout Rankings by Team 1901-1945

Strikeout Rankings by Team 1946-1992Strikeout Rankings by Team 1993-2013But rankings can be deceptive. They don’t tell you by how much a team led its league. To look at that question, I’ve calculated K/9+ for each team and season, being 100 * (team K/9 divided by league K/9). Those results are color-coded from lowest to highest ratings in blue-green-yellow-orange-pink-red order.

AL Strikeout+ Ratings by Team 1901-1945

AL Strikeout+ Ratings by Team 1946-1992AL Strikeout+ Ratings by Team 1993-2013It’s not for nothing that old Schreck led the league in putouts every year. His Athletics dominated the league in strikeouts as no other AL team has since. But, how do those Athletics compare to the post-war Dodgers and their 16-year run leading the senior circuit.

NL Strikeout+ Ratings by Team 1901-1945NL Strikeout+ Ratings by Team 1946-1992NL Strikeout+ Ratings by Team 1993-2013Actually, those early Athletics teams compare very favorably. Despite 16 years leading the NL, the Dodgers look quite pedestrian in comparison.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering what happened to the red that stood out in the early years but has all but disappeared now, more teams will tend to limit the influence of outliers (high or low) on league averages. As well, the higher that strikeout rates go, the harder it will be for a team to be 20% or 30% higher still. Plus, with players changing teams today as frequently as they do, the likelihood diminishes for a team to keep the same pitchers or the same type of pitchers for long stretches.

Will we have another team that will post strikeout rates 40% higher than league average and do it for several years running? It would seem not. In fact, we’re waiting for a team to do that in even one season – no team has reached a 135 score since the 1946 Tigers.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

Fantastic work, Doug.

So in addition to all the other ‘this is the first time the Pirates have done this since…’ that we heard in 2013, it was the first time that they scored as high as 103 in K/9+ since 1985, when they lost 104 games.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
10 years ago

Slight correction Doug. Schreck had one season of 2 3B and 2 HR. You read his partial values for 1899. There is an error in his BR home page. For 1899 it shows 115 G, 427 AB and a league-leading 738 PA which, of course, did not happen. It should be TOB/OBP = 148/.328 = 451. Schreck’s name came up on the old B-R blog but I don’t remember in what context.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
10 years ago

I found where Shreck’s name came up on the old B-R blog. In a blog written by John Autin on 8-6-11 entitled “Bill Bergen Still Stands Alone”, it was noted that Schreck is one of a small number of catchers who played in at least 75 games as a catcher and had an OPS+ of 40 or less. In 1904 his OPS+ was 33.

John Autin
10 years ago

Interesting that the Dodgers led the NL in Ks from 1948-63, all but 2 of those years coming before Dodger Stadium. My first thought was, good work by the front office to build a high-K staff to offset (what I thought was) hitter-friendly Ebbets Field. But actually, the park factors in that era show Ebbets mostly neutral. The pitching park factor was between 98 and 102 from 1941-55, then rose to 106 in their last 2 years in Brooklyn. Thinking that maybe post-war Ebbets was at least a high-HR park, even if neutral overall, I checked the home/road HR splits… Read more »

10 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

“Interesting that the Dodgers led the NL in Ks from 1948-63, all but 2 of those years coming before Dodger Stadium”

Not to mention ending just as Sandy Koufax was hitting his peak.

John Autin
10 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

LA did lead the league in Ks again during Sandy’s final year, 1966. Incidentally, their 1,084 Ks would have ranked next-to-last in the 2013 NL.

Ken Schmidt
Ken Schmidt
10 years ago

Those charts are awesome! Especially the ones with K/9+ for each team and season and the color coding. I was thinking there was a site that did a similar thing for players in various categories, but couldn’t find it. Perhaps I’m thinking of the Lee Sinins Sabermetric Encyclopedia.

no statistician but
no statistician but
10 years ago

To me the revealing thing here is the lack of correlation between leading the league in SOs and winning the pennant. The Dodgers’ run from 1946 to 1966 is something of an exception, since they won 10 pennants and lost in a three game playoff three times, while leading in strikeouts 11 of those seasons, but otherwise pennant winners are all over the place in terms of strikeout ranking. I’m not up to checking on W-L records of the SO leaders, but it would be interesting to see how much of a positive correlation there is between a winning record… Read more »


[…] they left B-R and have gained new writers (many from our crew here in the general chapter!). Their post I am featuring today is written by Doug and is so packed with information, you need to set aside some good quality time. […]

10 years ago

Great stuff Doug. The league-leaders chart throws up all sorts of interesting stuff. The Braves never led the league until 1994. The Orioles have only done it twice. They and the Cardinals haven’t done it since 1944, the Pirates not since 1921. Analysing that table, I believe the following teams hold the record for consecutive last placed finishes in the strikeout table for a given number of teams in the league: 8 team league: Braves, 1935-40 (six seasons) 10 team league: Mets, 1962-66 (five seasons) 12 team league: Cardinals,1979-83 (five seasons) 14 team league: Brewers, 1977-80 (four seasons) 16 team… Read more »