More frivolity to lighten the mid-winter blues. As there seemed to be some interest in my Christmas post on teams of players sharing a common birthday, I’ll add this little study to the mix.
A few years ago, regular contributor Richard Chester alerted me to a claim on Twitter to the effect that there had been only a very small number of occasions (I don’t recall the exact claim) when opposing starting pitchers had shared the same birth date, as in same birthday and same birth year. Richard and I quickly debunked that claim, identifying a considerably larger number of such games, which were the subject of a January 2016 Quiz post. I’ve expanded that study since then and added a bit of narrative on the protagonists. So, if you missed the quiz, here’s another chance to indulge in this bit of trivia.
If you’re wondering, I’ll get right to it and tell you that no opposing starters with the same birth date have faced each other on their birthday. In fact, opposing starters with the same birthday have faced each other on that birthday only once since at least 1908, on May 3. 2012 when 35 year-old Ryan Dempster faced 26 year-old Homer Bailey.
For starting pitchers with the same birth date facing each other in any game, I’ve found 19 pairs of pitchers and 46 total games since 1876. Nearly one-third of those games belong to just one of those pitching pairs, the matchup between AL aces Will Bill Donovan and Rube Waddell, both born on Oct 13, 1876. The complete list, with a short narrative for each, is shown in the table below.
|16-Jan||1891||Marv Goodwin||Ferdie Schupp||1917-08-18 (1)|
|Goodwin and Schupp recorded their lone meeting in the first of three seasons that both pitched in the NL; it was Goodwin’s rookie campaign and Schupp’s career year, with a 21-7 record and 1.95 ERA for the NL champion Giants.|
|06-Mar||1986||Jake Arrieta||Ross Detwiler||2012-06-24|
|Arrieta and Detwiler record their lone meeting in an inter-league game in Detwiler’s top season for starts and the only time he started more games than Arrieta. Detwiler’s one game 2018 season was an unusual one, with a 6 inning relief outing, the first such single game season in 75 years (following Chris Haughey‘s 7 inning relief stint on his 18th birthday in 1943).|
|09-Apr||1879||Doc White||Happy Townsend||1903-08-16 (2)|
|White and Townsend started their careers as teammates on the 1901 Phillies, with both posting winning records. White would go on to post eight straight winning campaigns for the White Sox, while Townsend’s rookie year would be the lone winning season of his career. Townsend holds the AL record for lowest career W-L% (.248) in 100+ decisions, lower than the NL record holder Jim Hughey, whose .259 mark includes an unfortunate 4-30 record for the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.|
|15-Apr||1985||John Danks||Aaron Laffey||2009-09-28|
|Danks started 20 games eight times in his career, while Laffey never did so. Their lone meeting was in the third season for both players, and the year Laffey posted his career high of 19 starts.|
|26-Apr||1972||Brian Anderson||Francisco Cordova||1998-09-03||1999-09-14|
|The two meetings for Anderson and Cordero came in two of the three seasons that both pitched in the NL. Anderson’s 4.74 career ERA is sixth highest among left-handed pitchers with 200 starts; the top 14 on that list have all started their careers since Anderson’s debut season in 1993.|
|01-Jun||1869||Theodore Breitenstein||Les German||1894-08-15||1895-07-17|
|The two meetings for Breitenstein and German came in two of the five seasons that both pitched in the NL. Breitenstein topped 400 IP in both of those campaigns, but still had a lot in the tank with another 1400 IP of mostly effective (107 ERA+) pitching still to come. In contrast, German was a spot starter who finished most of his games (80% of his career starts were CGs) but failed to top 200 IP in any of his six seasons.|
|31-Jul||1892||Art Nehf||Erv Kantlehner||1915-09-24|
|The lone meeting for Nehf and Kantlehner came in Nehf’s rookie campaign and Kantlehner’s first qualified season. Kantlehner would pitch just one more season while Nehf enjoyed a 15 year career with over 2700 IP and a .605 career W-L%.|
|04-Aug||1962||Roger Clemens||John Farrell||1990-06-03||1990-06-08|
|Clemens and Farrell posted their two meetings in consecutive starts, the first in the last game of a series, and the next in the first game of the return series. Clemens got the win and Farrell the loss in both games.|
|11-Aug||1907||Bobo Newsom||Gordon Rhodes||1934-05-18|
|Newsom and Rhodes met in the first of three seasons that both pitched in the AL. Had Rhodes not been included in the deal that brought Jimmie Foxx to Boston, these two might have been teammates on the Red Sox in 1936. Rhodes suffered the fate of a mid-season trade away from the 1932 world champion Yankees, while Newsom was the beneficiary of the reverse circumstance, joining the 1947 world champion Bombers and starting a World Series game (a forgettable 1.2 IP allowing 5 runs, all earned).|
|01-Oct||1894||Ray Kolp||Duster Mails||1922-05-07||1922-07-02|
|Kolp and Mails met in the second of two seasons that both pitched in the AL. Kolp’s .778 W-L% in 1922 is the second highest qualified mark by a Browns’ pitcher; in contrast, Mails’s 5.28 ERA that year hastened his sale to the PCL’s Oakland Oaks after the season.|
|05-Oct||1871||Jack Fifield||Roger Denzer||1897-05-28|
|Fifield and Denzer are probably the most unlikely pairing, with Denzer recording just ten starts in this season, the only one in which both played.|
|07-Oct||1939||John O’Donoghue||Phil Ortega||1965-05-04|
|O’Donoghue and Ortega met in the first of three seasons that both recorded starts in the AL. O’Donoghue was an All-Star selection this season, despite leading his league in losses. Ortega’s black ink was also negative, leading the AL in ER allowed in this, his first season in the junior circuit.|
|13-Oct||1876||Bill Donovan||Rube Waddell||1901-07-04 (2)||1903-06-05||1903-06-27||1903-07-04 (2)||1903-08-21 (1)|
|1907-06-21||1907-08-14||1908-05-10 (1)||1908-09-06||1909-09-12 (2)|
|Donovan and Waddell lead this group in most games (15), most in one season (4), most in one series (2), and most seasons (8) and consecutive seasons (7) with an encounter. Their teams split these 15 games with identical 7-7-1 records.|
|19-Oct||1965||Mike Gardiner||Dave Haas||1992-09-21|
|Almost as unlikely as Fifield and Denzer, this was the only season in which Gardiner and Haas both recorded starts, including just eleven by Haas.|
|07-Nov||1974||Kris Benson||Glendon Rusch||2002-06-08||2003-07-09||2004-09-24|
|The first two meetings for Benson and Rusch came in appearances for the Pirates and Brewers, respectively; their rivalry was renewed the next year, after both had moved on to new teams. Rusch’s 5.04 career ERA is fourth highest among all pitchers with 200 career starts.|
|17-Nov||1933||Orlando Pena||Dan Osinski||1963-05-26||1963-06-10|
|The two meetings for Pena and Osinski came in the latter’s first season with a start, and the only season that both reached double figures in games started. Both recorded over 300 relief appearances for their careers, with virtually identical ERAs (3.39 and 3.40) in that role.|
|24-Nov||1967||Cal Eldred||Ben McDonald||1992-09-13||1993-09-17||1994-06-22||1995-05-03|
|Eldred and McDonald had meetings in four consecutive seasons; the last was the most unlikely, coming in a season in which McDonald recorded just thirteen starts and Eldred only four.|
|24-Dec||1974||Jamey Wright||Kevin Millwood||2000-05-23||2005-06-16|
|Wright and Millwood had five seasons pass between their two encounters, the first an NL tilt and the second an inter-league matchup. Wright played for ten franchises and Millwood seven, with the two ending up as teammates on the 2007-08 Rangers.|
|31-Dec||1971||Brian Moehler||Esteban Loaiza||1999-08-30||2000-05-30||2005-09-28|
|Moehler’s and Loaiza’s three encounters included two in the AL (the first was a 1-0 shutout for Moehler on 130 pitches) and the third in the NL; the last two of these three seasons were the only times that both recorded 20+ starts pitching in the same league. For their careers, both recorded 750+ IP in each league, and both enjoyed better results in the junior circuit.|
Eighteen of these 46 games have come since the 1990 season, though there have been none in the past six seasons. When might we expect the next one? Well, here are some possibilities, all of whom (except Henderson Alvarez) started at least one game in 2018:
- Max Fried and Diego Castillo (born Jan 18, 1994) had similar roles last year as occasional starters, in Atlanta and Tampa respectively. While they remain in different leagues, meeting up as starters will be pretty unlikely.
- Jorge Lopez and Brandon Woodruff (born Feb 10, 1993) were teammates in Milwaukee last season until Lopez was moved to Kansas City’s rotation. Now in different leagues, and with Woodruff only an occasional starter, this one is a long shot for now.
- Marco Gonzales (born Feb 16, 1992) impressed in his first season as a regular last year, so should be back in the rotation this season. Jeff Brigham made his major league debut last year, but looks like he could still be a season or two away from making an impact. Put this one in the long shot category for now.
- Henderon Alvarez and Anthony DeSclafani (born Apr 18, 1990) both have pedigree as starting pitchers, so if Alvarez can make it back to the show, this could be one of the more likely matchups.
- Trevor Williams (born Apr 25, 1992) has two seasons under his belt in the Pirate rotation, while Luis Cessa is still trying to get established in a crowded Yankee staff. But, if they should end up in the same league at some point, this combination might be a possibility.
- David Hess and Jalen Beeks (born July 10, 1993) both made their major league debuts last year in the AL East, so will at least get to see each other a fair bit if they make the big club again this season. Beeks was used mostly in relief last year, but he’s in Tampa now, so he might end up with some “opener” assignments if the Rays continue that strategy this year.
- The threesome of Chris Stratton, Ryan Carpenter, and Drew Hutchison (born Aug 22, 1990) might have strength in numbers, but their chances look limited. Stratton started 26 games last year, but his 5.09 ERA suggests that his playing time could be reduced this season. Hutchison has a couple of prior seasons as a starter but has hardly pitched the last four years, and Carpenter has only had a cup of coffee.
- Robbie Ray (born Oct 1, 1991) has two birth date mates (Connor Sadzeck and Lou Trivino), but chances for this threesome also seem remote. Sadzeck has only had a cup of coffee, while Trivino impressed as a rookie last year, but in relief (he was the 35th under 30 pitcher since 1901 with a debut season of 60+ games and ERA under 3.00; all of those seasons have come since 1952, including 23 in the past twenty seasons).
- Adam Plutko and Brock Stewart (born Oct 3, 1991) are no longer youngsters and fringe players at best, so chances would appear remote. But, you never know.
- Adrian Sampson (born Oct 7, 1991) has only had a couple of cups of coffee so far, and he is under contract to the Rangers. But, if circumstances should become more propitious, he could one day meet up with Braves’ fixture Mike Foltynewicz.
- CYA winner Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove (born Dec 4, 1992) missed by a day in 2017, starting consecutive games in the same series. But, Musgrove is now in the NL, so their chances will be limited for the present.
- Kendall Graveman and Mike Clevenger (born Dec 21, 1990) are a possibility, though Graveman is shelved for the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
- There is speculation that Baltimore will move Miguel Castro (born Dec 24, 1994) to the rotation next season, where he would have the opportunity of meeting up with Fernando Romero, who debuted with the Twins last year and probably showed enough to get a second look this season.