Quiz – Fire and Fizzle (solved)

For a quick diversion, here’s a list of ten notable starting pitchers of the modern era (since 1901). Which career accomplishment (min. 250 decisions) distinguishes these players among all retired pitchers of the modern era?

Congratulations to Bob Eno. He knew that only these pitchers compiled a .550 W-L% in 200+ decisions over their first 10 seasons, but then slid below .450 in 50+ decisions for the rest of their careers. More after the jump.

There are 141 retired pitchers since 1901 with a .550 winning percentage in 200 decisions over their first 10 seasons. Only 87 of them recorded 50 decisions after their 10th season, with our 10 quiz players having the lowest winning percentage for those 50+ decisions, ranging from .300 (18-42) for James Shields to .446 (25-31) for Doug Drabek.

Another nine of those 87 pitchers saw their winning percentage drop by over 100 points after their 10th season, including HOFers Juan Marichal (194 point drop), Bob Lemon (140), Red Faber (132), Carl Hubbell (113) and Mordecai Brown (106), as well as COG inductee Wes Ferrell (126).

Only 16 of the 87 saw their .550+ winning percentage increase after their 10th season, led by Stan Coveleski (111 point rise), Allie Reynolds (101) and Urban Shocker (85). In addition to Coveleski, these 16 include HOFers Don Sutton, Steve Carlton, Jesse Haines, John Smoltz and Eddie Plank, as well as COG honoree Roger Clemens. Reynolds, Shocker, Plank, Clemens and Jimmy Key all improved on a .600 winning percentage for their first 10 seasons.

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29 Comments on "Quiz – Fire and Fizzle (solved)"

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Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

This is a stumper (for the moment).
A lot of them (but not all) led the league in losses.
A lot of them (but not all) were terrible in their final season.
Dunno.
I’ll point out, though, that Shields isn’t exactly retired. In fact, i’d wager we see him again very soon.
____

errata:

Last night, Robinson Chirinos became the 5th searchable Catcher to hit a HR and Walk 4 times.
https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SEA/SEA201906060.shtml

Last one was AJ Ellis in 2015:
https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK201508180.shtml

According to my search, it was not done before 1986. Bruce Bochy was the 1st:
https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PIT/PIT198605140.shtml

Doug
Guest

I see what you mean about Shields; I guess B-R shows him as retired because he is no longer under contract anywhere. That said, Shields would have to make quite a comeback to get off of this list; my guess is he’ll still make it, whenever he finally retires.

Doug
Guest

Other catchers with similar feats (5 PA, HR in each AB) are:
– Devin Mesoraco: 2014-06-23 (1 GSHR, 2 BB, 2 HBP)
– Welington Castillo: 2013-08-10 (1 HR, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SF)
– Brian Downing: 1981-05-09 (1 HR, 3 BB, 1 HBP, also 4 R)
– Ed Fitz Gerald: 1955-05-01 (2 HR, 3 BB)

Fitz Gerald turned 95 two weeks ago and is among 18 players still living who were born in 1924 or earlier; 5 of the 18 played for the 1954 Yankees (Bobby Brown, Art Schallock, Irv Noren, Eddie Robinson, Charlie Silvera).

Richard Chester
Guest

They all had career .500+ W-L percentages (fire) but dropped below .500 for their last few years (fizzle).

Doug
Guest

Right idea, but need to be a bit more precise.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
Jay Bruce has hit four home runs in his first five games with his new team in Philadelphia. For the season thus far after 202 plate appearances he has a .297 on base percentage and a .602 SLG Has anyone gone under 300 and over 600 for a season? Nope. Only two instances of more than 30 plate appearances. Greg Pirkl in 1994 was at .286/.660 after 56 PA when he was sent down in May. He had lovely numbers at AAA, and presumably would have earned a September look, except that, you know, 1994. He continued to smash the… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Voom,
I think a guy like Russell Branyan would get 600 PA’s routinely nowadays with the whole emphasis on not getting cheated and “Who cares?” about the strikeouts. Truly ahead of his time….

Doug
Guest

Also in 1994 was Matt Williams with .319/.607, the lowest OBP slugging .600 in an, ahem, qualified season. Lowest in a full-length qualified season is .343/.613 by Dave Kingman in 1979.

Also having similar seasons this year are Eddie Rosario (.307/.545), Franmil Reyes (.300/.558) and Jorge Soler (.293/.510). I mention them because the best qualified SLG with OBP under .300 is only .299/.514 by Mike Jacobs in 2008.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Notable:

Oliver Drake played for a record Five MLB teams last season:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/drakeol01.shtml

Technically he was with 6 teams in one calendar year, as he was picked up by Tampa Bay in the off-season, before getting waived back to Toronto (one of the 5) a few weeks later.

The Rays saw something in him, got him back in January, and he is currently succeeding in St. Petersburg.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest
This is crazy: Drake was waived five times during 2018, twice in November. Why would Tampa pick him up on waivers Nov. 1 and waive him again three weeks later, during the off-season? Did he disappoint them with dry turkey for Thanksgiving? And did he then throw such a great bash at New Year’s that the Rays bought him back three days later? At least Drake didn’t have to pack his bags for those bounces. (But he did to go to Illinois, where he started this season in AAA, pitching poorly, till be was somehow brought up in May anyway… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Yelich is currently leading the league in both HR and SB.
On pace for 65 HR and 38 SB.

I can find two instances on a player leading the league on both those categories.
It has been a while.

Chuck Klein in 1932 (38/20), and 420 Total Bases:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/kleinch01.shtml

And Tyrus Cobb in 1909, (NINE HR/ 76 SB)
Cobb also earned the Triple Crown.
Or, if you want to get Latin about it, the Undecim Crown, as he led in:
R, H, HR, RBI, SB, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, TB

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/cobbty01.shtml

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

Vintage Voomo

In 1908, John Peter Wagner won what would have been celebrated as the more valuable Undecim Crown:
H, 2B, 3B, RBI, SB, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, TB
(Fans were particularly wild about the OPS+ Crown in those days, and less concerned that John Peter missed the HR title by two, with more HR than Mr. Cobb hit in ’09.)

In 1909, John Peter captured only eight legs of the Undecim Crown, but fanatics went wild as he completely outshone Mr. Cobb when their teams met in the Series Mundae.

Paul E
Guest

Cobb had a pretty good year in 1911 when he batted .419 and DIDN’t lead the league in OBA (Jackson .468; Cobb .466). Musial had a couple decent years in 1946 and 1948 as well

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

Cobb 1909 and Cobb 1911 were playing in different eras: the Dead Ball Era and the Lively Ball Era (in its pre-Ruthian phase). At .377, Cobb won the 1909 batting title by thirty points, but his .419 in 1911 topped Jackson by only eleven. The entire AL raised its BA from .244 in 1909 to .273 in ’11 (dipping to .243 in between).

In ’48, Musial had a HR rained out. Give it to him and he leads in twelve categories, Plato’s famous Idea of the Dodecacrown. Weather and history: in 1812 it was Napoleon; in 1948 it was Musial.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Most homeruns, with more homeruns than strikeouts. *Starred all occurred in 1948.

45/41 … Bonds
42/38 … Ott
40/37 … Mize*
40/34 … Ted Klu
39/31 … Ken Williams
39/34 … Stan*
39/30 … Joe D*

Richard Chester
Guest

Voomo: Re-do your search, looks like you missed a bunch.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Ah. Yes. Thank you.

49/46 … Gehrig
49/35 … Ted Klu
47/40 … Ted Klu
46/37 … Joe D.

Richard Chester
Guest

Also
Johnny Mize…51/42
Lou Gehrig…49/31

Largest differential with at least 20 HR: Tommy Holmes…28/9

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Okay. I was ready to accept that I was tired last night and couldn’t see how many players came up in the search.

But I was clear and double checked my work when I did it this morning.

Play index failed me. I officially declare that I am not incompetent.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Most homeruns in a career, with more homeruns than strikeouts:

3/2 … Keith McDonald
2/1 … Rick Short

Eight players did it with one HR, including Esteban Yan.
Appeared in 472 games.
3 plate appearances.
HR, sac bunt (same game), single (3 years later)

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Doug, how about a hint on your quiz?

Mike L
Guest

It’s a strange group. Every single one of them were over .500 for their career at some point, had a decent later-career year, and then were under .500 for the balance of their seasons. But that can’t be it.

Doug
Guest

As Richard identified, it’s about winning percentage, and the decline from a good number for most of a career to a bad number as the career wound down. “Most of a career” means a period of time (think round numbers) from the start of a career.

Richard Chester
Guest

How about .500+ W-L % for his first 10 years, then sub .500 for a few years after that.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

I wonder if the division between fire and fizzle shouldn’t be >.550 vs. .450>, with a minimum of 250 decisions.

Doug
Guest

Bob has it. .550 for first 10 years (min. 200 decisions), then sub-.450 for rest of career (min. 50 decisions).

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

Well, I didn’t get the 200/50 split, and Mike L and Richard got the essential part. So: joint effort, with Doug throwing in the last element as a bonus, in lieu of a trophy, I presume.

Doug
Guest

The Brewers have become the 29th team to have two players hit 20 home runs in their team’s first 70 games. No team has had three such players.
– Five of the previous 28 teams won pennants, the 2009 Phillies being the most recent
– Two teams lost 90 games, the 1959 Senators and 1987 Braves, and two others lost 89
– Nine of these teams were from the 1998 to 2001 seasons, with five in 2000 alone
– The Yankees (1930-31, 1960-61) and Cardinals (2000-01) are the only teams to go back-to-back

Paul E
Guest

Doug,
Yes, and last night, the Brew Crew struck out 19 times without taking a walk in the first 9 innings versus the Astros (Verlander 15-0 through 7). For the night, including overtime, it was 24:1 . All forgotten and forgiven in light of a 6-3 Milwaukee victory in 14 innings

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