200 Game Batteries UPDATED

With Baseball-Reference.com gamelogs now mostly complete back to 1901, I’ve gone back to look at posts published previously, when there were no game level data prior to 1914. This post was originally published in 2016, but in its reprised version, nine new batteries with 200 starts together are identified (there was a lot more matching of catchers to elite pitchers in the early years of the modern era). More on long-term batteries is after the jump.

The analysis looks at games started together, using the Defensive Lineups data available on Baseball-Reference.com for seasons since 1901. The following 35 batteries reach the threshold of 200 games started together. The percentages shown represent the indicated game starts as a percentage of all starts by the pitcher for the seasons in which the battery was active. Batteries which are currently active are denoted in red.

  1. 324 games (70.6%) – Mickey Lolich/Bill Freehan 1963-75 Tigers
  2. 316 games (70.1%) – Warren Spahn/Del Crandall 1949-63 Braves
  3. 306 games (85.5%) – Red Faber/Ray Schalk 1914-26 White Sox
  4. 283 games (69.0%) – Don Drysdale/John Roseboro 1957-67 Dodgers
  5. 282 games (74.2%) – Red Ruffing/Bill Dickey 1930-46 Yankees
  6. 274 games (84.0%) – Adam Wainwright/Yadier Molina 2007-20 Cardinals
  7. 270 games (81.6%) – Steve Rogers/Gary Carter 1975-84 Expos
  8. 264 games (75.6%) – Bob Lemon/Jim Hegan 1946-57 Indians
  9. 252 games (66.8%) – Pete Alexander/Bill Killefer 1911-17 Phillies, 1918-21 Cubs
  10. 250 games (85.9%) – Early Wynn/Jim Hegan 1949-57 Indians
  11. 248 games (83.5%) – Tom Glavine/Javy Lopez 1994-2002 Braves
  12. 247 games (78.9%) – Lefty Gomez/Bill Dickey 1931-42 Yankees
  13. 246 games (89.5%) – Dazzy Vance/Hank DeBerry 1922-30 Robins
  14. 240 games (70.6%) – Bob Feller/Jim Hegan 1941-56 Indians
  15. 239 games (74.7%) – Fernando Valenzuela/Mike Scioscia 1981-90 Dodgers
  16. 237 games (87.1%) – Stan Coveleski/Steve O’Neill 1916-23 Indians
  17. 237 games (65.7%) – Tom Seaver/Jerry Grote 1967-77 Mets
  18. 230 games (71.7%) – Lew Burdette/Del Crandall 1953-63 Braves
  19. 229 games (77.1%) – Cy Young/Lou Criger 1901-08 Americans/Red Sox
  20. 228 games (71.0%) – Steve Carlton/Tim McCarver 1965-69 Cardinals, 1972-79 Phillies
  21. 226 games (79.0%) – Madison Bumgarner/Buster Posey 2009-19 Giants
  22. 224 games (83.9%) – Lefty Grove/Mickey Cochrane 1925-33 Athletics
  23. 221 games (74.9%) – Paul Derringer/Ernie Lombardi 1933-41 Reds
  24. 212 games (60.6%) – Whitey Ford/Yogi Berra 1950-63 Yankees
  25. 211 games (81.8%) – Eddie Cicotte/Ray Schalk 1912-20 White Sox
  26. 209 games (63.0%) – Walter Johnson/Eddie Ainsmith 1910-18 Senators
  27. 208 games (69.6%) – Sandy Koufax/John Roseboro 1957-66 Dodgers
  28. 208 games (67.1%) – Mike Flanagan/Rick Dempsey 1976-86 Orioles
  29. 207 games (75.5%) – Jack Morris/Lance Parrish 1978-86 Tigers
  30. 207 games (70.4%) – Cole Hamels/Carlos Ruiz 2006-15 Phillies
  31. 206 games (65.6%) – Eddie Plank/Doc Powers 1901-09 Athletics
  32. 203 games (79.9%) – Rube Walberg/Mickey Cochrane 1925-33 Athletics
  33. 203 games (65.9%) – Billy Pierce/Sherm Lollar 1952-61 White Sox
  34. 202 games (61.0%) – Dave Stieb/Ernie Whitt 1980-89 Blue Jays
  35. 200 games (68.3%) – Doc White/Billy Sullivan 1903-12 White Sox

A long-standing battery is a hallmark of better teams, as only the Robins and Senators tandems failed to make the post-season, and only two of the rest (the Expos and Blue Jays pairs) did not reach the World Series.

The chart below orders these batteries according to the percentages shown above, representing the battery game starts as a percentage of all pitcher starts in the seasons in which the battery was active. Higher numbers indicate a large majority of his team’s games caught by the catcher and/or a preference by the pitcher for that catcher. Smaller numbers indicate some combination of catchers who also played other positions, or who regularly shared the catching workload with teammates, or who lost considerable playing time due to injuries.

So that is the numerical story, but which of these batteries was most effective? Looking at the game logs for these starts, these are the same batteries ordered by their teams’ winning percentage in their starts.

So, as might be expected, many of the top winning percentages are for pitchers who played on dominant teams. But, there are some notable exceptions, including Johnson/Ainsmith and Alexander/Killefer, whose teams were a bit better than .500 over the seasons these batteries were active. Which leads us to the next comparison, of how much better these batteries were than the rest of their team.

So, as may have been anticipated, Johnson/Ainsmith now moves to the top of the heap in terms of WPCT above the rest of the team, with Vance/DeBerry close behind. But, look at Koufax/Roseboro and Grove/Cochrane, playing for teams with multiple world championships, but still well above the rest of their team. At the other end of the table are those pitchers who are only second best on their team; for them, it’s well nigh impossible to do well on this metric (if you’re wondering about the Indian trio, Lemon and Wynn were basically 1 and 1A, with Feller just a notch lower, so none suffers egregiously compared to team, since all three were so close together).

Below are these two metrics (Battery WPCT and Battery WPCT Above Team) plotted against each other, with the top performers in the upper right corner separating themselves from the field.

Lastly, to give some perspective on what WPCT Above Team really means, I’ve translated that into Wins, simply by multiplying that number by each battery’s number of starts. Thus, the number shown is how many more wins the team had using this battery vs. another battery comparable to the average of the rest of the team.

To close, following are brief narratives on our select group of battery-mates.

1. 324 games (70.6%) – Mickey Lolich/Bill Freehan 1963-75 Tigers

Lolich-Freehan

Rookies together in 1963, these two were both developed in the Tiger system after signing as amateur free agents. Freehan would play his entire career in Detroit, setting a franchise record with over 1500 games caught. Lolich came within 35 innings of the Tiger franchise record workload, before passing the 3500 IP career threshold with the Mets in 1976. Included was his career high 376 IP in 1971 when he started 45 games, 41 of them caught by Freehan. Lolich was also the Tiger hero in the 1968 World Series with 3 CG wins including a game 7 triumph, pitching on two days rest and prevailing over Cardinal ace Bob Gibson.

  2. 316 games (70.1%) – Warren Spahn/Del Crandall 1949-63 Braves
18. 230 games (71.7%) – Lew Burdette/Del Crandall 1953-63 Braves

Crandall-Spahn-Burdette

Spahn and Crandall were both signed as amateurs by the Braves while Burdette was a throw-in by the Yankees when they purchased Johnny Sain for $50,000 late in the 1951 season. Spahn and Crandall would very likely hold top spot if not for Crandall losing the 1951 and 1952 seasons to military service. With Spahn and Burdette at the top of their rotation, the Braves claimed consecutive league championships in 1957 and 1958, splitting those two World Series with the Yankees. Burdette was the hero of the 1957 series with three CG wins including shutouts in game 5 and (after just two days rest) again in game 7. In their final season together Burdette was traded to the Cardinals in June and, two weeks later, Spahn and Crandall both went the distance in a famous 16-inning loss to Juan Marichal and the Giants. Crandall was dealt to San Francisco in a 7-player swap after that 1963 season while Spahn would play one more year in Milwaukee before finishing his HOF career in a 1965 season split between the Mets and Giants (that included an Aug 31 matchup with Burdette who bested the 44 year-old Spahn with a 2-0 shutout, one of 10 games since 1901 with two starters aged 38+ both going the distance).

  3. 306 games (85.5%) – Red Faber/Ray Schalk 1914-26 White Sox
25. 211 games (81.8%) – Eddie Cicotte/Ray Schalk 1912-20 White Sox

Eddie Cicotte had been a middling pitcher in Boston for several years when purchased by the White Sox midway in the 1912 season. A month later, 19 year-old Ray Schalk arrived on the scene, and quickly assumed the everyday catcher role the following season. In their time together, Cicotte established himself as one of the AL’s premier pitchers, posting three 250 IP seasons with 170 or better ERA+ (only three others have done so in the modern era). The last of those seasons was the Sox’ 1919 pennant winning campaign in which Cicotte conspired with several teammates to throw that year’s World Series (in game 1, Cicotte allowed 6 ER in less than 4 IP, something he had done only one other time in his career). Cicotte and the other conspirators were banned from the game for life after the 1920 season.

Faber came along in 1914, with he and Schalk remaining fixtures in the Chicago lineup for almost their entire careers. Schalk caught a franchise record 1722 games for the Sox, and Faber surpassed 4000 IP for the South-siders, second only to Ted Lyons. Chicago claimed two league championships in this duo’s tenure, besting the Giants in the 1917 World Series and, as noted above, infamously throwing the 1919 series against the Reds. This pair would make 35+ starts together for three straight years (1920-22), each a 300 IP, 20 win season for Faber. Schalk was released after the 1928 season and finished his career with a few games for the Giants. Faber would play his entire career in Chicago, ending in 1933 at age 44.

    4. 283 games (69.0%) – Don Drysdale/John Roseboro 1957-67 Dodgers
T27. 208 games (69.6%) – Sandy Koufax/John Roseboro 1957-66 Dodgers

Roseboro-Drysdale-Koufax

Roseboro debuted late in the 1957 season but, at age 24, was the old man to 21 year-olds Drysdale and Koufax, in their second and third seasons respectively. In their 10 seasons together, this trio would lead the Dodgers to four NL titles and three world championships, the latter including the 1963 and 1965 seasons when Drysdale and Koufax both made 40 starts and logged over 300 IP, the first live ball era teams with two such pitchers, and only the second pair of pitchers to do so twice (the first were the Giants’ Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity in 1903-04). Koufax retired after the 1966 season and Drysdale did the same three years later. Roseboro was traded after the 1967 season (for 1965 MVP Zoilo Versalles) and finished his career with the Senators in 1970.

  5. 282 games (74.2%) – Red Ruffing/Bill Dickey 1930-46 Yankees
12. 247 games (78.9%) – Lefty Gomez/Bill Dickey 1931-42 Yankees

Dickey-Ruffing-Gomez

These two batteries were the foundation of the second Yankee dynasty of 7 pennants and 6 World Series titles from 1936 to 1943. Dickey had recorded an outstanding (.324/.346/.485 in 474 PA) rookie campaign in 1929 when he was joined by Ruffing early in the 1930 season. Ruffing, with a 39-96 record and 92 ERA+ for the Red Sox, hardly seemed to warrant his hefty $50,000 price tag but the Yankees evidently saw signs of better things in the big right-hander. Gomez debuted that season and won 20 games with a 150 ERA+ in his 1931 rookie campaign, and won 20 games again the next season (albeit with a pedestrian 97 ERA+). For the Yankee four-peat of 1936-39, Ruffing won 20 games each year for an 82-33 record and a 137 ERA+ while Gomez posted an almost identical 138 ERA+, good for a 64-38 record. For Dickey, it was 20+ HR and 100+ RBI for each of those seasons, good for a .326/.415/.565 slash and 144 OPS+. The Braves purchased Gomez after the 1942 season while Dickey and Ruffing entered military service (despite both being in their late 30s), then reunited briefly in 1946 before both were released on the same day just before the end of that season (Dickey’s release closely followed his resignation as manager, a post Dickey had assumed following Joe McCarthy‘s resignation early that season).

6. 274 games (84.0%) – Adam Wainwright/Yadier Molina 2007-20 Cardinals

Yadier Molina made his major league debut in 2004, Adam Wainwright followed him the next season, and both have remained Cardinals for their entire careers. After a solid bullpen season in 2006, Wainwright graduated to the rotation in 2007, where he’s remained a fixture ever since. Injuries have dogged Wainwright throughout his career but, when he’s been healthy, there are very few who have been as consistently effective as the big right-hander. Despite a lost season in 2011, Wainwright’s 92 wins for the 2009 to 2014 seasons ranked fourth in the majors, with his ERA (2.83) and ERA+ (135) for those seasons also 4th among all pitchers with 500 IP. Molina quickly developed into the game’s best defensive catcher, and enjoys the distinction of being one of only four catchers (and the only current active player at any position) with career totals of 25 oWAR and 25 dWAR. Wainwright and Molina have both shone in the post-season, with Wainwright sporting a 2.89 ERA in over 100 post-season IP, and Molina playing in all 101 Cardinal post-season games since 2005, including 97 catching starts, as the Redbirds claimed world titles in 2006 and 2011, and an NL pennant in 2013.  It remains to be seen where this pair will end up on this list when their careers are done, but a 4th place ranking (at least) looks to be “in the cards” barring injury in the coming 2021 season.

7. 270 games (81.6%) – Steve Rogers/Gary Carter 1975-84 Expos

Rogers-Carter

Steve Rogers started his Expos career with a bang in 1973, going 6+ innings and allowing three runs or less in each of his first 16 games, seven games more than the next-longest such streak to begin a career. But the next year was a struggle, logging a 15-22 record with an 86 ERA+. Rogers righted the ship in 1975 with rookie Carter seeing part-time duty behind the plate, the first of six straight 200 IP seasons with at least a 115 ERA+. Carter became the everyday catcher starting in 1977, his first of four straight 5 WAR seasons that were followed by 3.8 WAR in strike-shortened 1981 and then three straight 7 WAR seasons to close out his time with the Expos. Carter was traded to the Mets for four players after the 1984 season while Rogers remained with Montreal his entire career, ending in 1985.

  8. 264 games (75.6%) – Bob Lemon/Jim Hegan 1946-57 Indians
10. 250 games (85.9%) – Early Wynn/Jim Hegan 1949-57 Indians
14. 240 games (70.6%) – Bob Feller/Jim Hegan 1941-56 Indians

Hegan-Lemon-Wynn-Feller

The Indians enjoyed their most sustained period of stellar play in the late 40s and early 50s, winning at least 88 games for nine straight years (1948-56) while claiming two pennants and finishing second to the Yankees on 5 occasions. That success was driven by consistent starting pitching as these batteries provided at least 55 starts in the last eight of those years, including 80 starts for three straight seasons (1949-51). Feller and Lemon played their entire careers in Cleveland while Wynn enjoyed his greatest success as an Indian with seven straight years (1950-56) of 17+ wins and no more than 13 losses, tied with Lefty Grove (1927-33) and Roger Clemens (1986-92) for the longest streak of such seasons in the live ball era. Feller retired after the 1956 season, followed by Lemon two years later. Wynn and Hegan both departed after the 1957 season, for Chicago and Detroit respectively.

9. 252 games (66.8%) – Pete Alexander/Bill Killefer 1911-17 Phillies, 1918-21 Cubs

Pete Alexander made a big splash in his 1911 debut season, posting a 28-7 record in 367 IP, the most wins and second highest IP in a modern era rookie season. Bill Killefer’s Phillies debut was less auspicious, acquired in August of that season in a minor league deal. In their time together (the two were traded together to Chicago after the 1917 season), Alexander flourished, leading the NL seven times in IP and SHO, six times in Wins, CG and SO, and five times in ERA. The pair were a key part of the Phillies’ 1915 pennant-winning season, and Killefer caught over 100 games as the Cubs took the pennant in an abbreviated 1918 season, most of which Alexander missed due to military service. Never an offensive threat, Killefer finished his career in 1921 with over 1000 games caught. Alexander would player nine more seasons with the Cubs, Cardinals (where he won his only world championship), and a final campaign back with the Phillies.

11. 248 games (83.5%) – Tom Glavine/Javy Lopez 1994-2002 Braves

Glavine-Lopez

These two were both signed by the Braves as amateurs, Glavine as a second round draft pick and Lopez as an undrafted free agent. Glavine was among the senior circuit’s top pitchers (with a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finish in 1991-93 CYA voting) when these two first started together in 1994. During their tenure, Glavine would repeat that three time top-3 CYA voting result as the Braves won their first World Series in almost 40 years in 1995 and followed that result with two more pennants over the next four seasons. Glavine ranks 3rd as a Brave in IP, Wins and ERA+ (min. 1000 IP) while Lopez is the career leader among Brave catchers in HR and RBI. Both would  leave Atlanta as free agents, Glavine after the 2002 season and Lopez a year later after a career-best season of 43 home runs, the most ever in a non-qualified season (his .687 SLG in 495 PA in that 2003 season is the best ever by a catcher in any season of 20 or more games).

13. 246 games (89.5%) – Dazzy Vance/Hank DeBerry 1922-30 Robins

This pair was in New Orleans of the South Atlantic League for two seasons (1920-21) before both were purchased by the Robins in the same transaction prior to the 1922 season. In nine years in Brooklyn, the two continued the chemistry they had developed in the minors, with DeBerry catching almost 90% of Vance’s starts, the highest figure of this group. Though this battery never made the post-season, Vance was dominant over their nine seasons nonetheless, leading the NL seven times in SO, SO/9 and SO/BB, six times in FIP, three times in ERA and ERA+, and twice in Wins. Vance twice exceeded 10 WAR, the first time in his MVP season in 1924. Despite all those starts catching Vance, DeBerry never played 90 games in a season, nor reached 300 PA. That’s because he didn’t play a whole lot when not catching Vance, with 48.6% of his Robins starts teamed with the right-handed fireballer, perhaps the ultimate example of a personal catcher (my thanks to Richard Chester for finding this pair, as I had not considered the possibility of a catcher making almost half of his starts with one pitcher). DeBerry was traded prior to the 1931 season for a young Ernie Lombardi, while Vance finished his career with two more years in Brooklyn (one as a Robin, the other as a Dodger), stops in St. Louis and Cincinnati, and a final campaign back in Brooklyn.

15. 239 games (74.7%) – Fernando Valenzuela/Mike Scioscia 1981-90 Dodgers

Valenzuela-Scioscia

The Dodgers famously found Valenzuela in Mexico while Scioscia was a first round pick. After both debuted in the 1980 season, the 20 year-old Valenzuela led the Dodgers to the 1981 World Series title with a CYA season, leading the league in IP, starts, complete games, shutouts and strikeouts, both the youngest pitcher and the only rookie to do so. Among those categories, Valenzuela led again only in complete games (he is the last pitcher to reach 75 CGs by age 25) as he topped 250 IP and 1000 BF in each of the next six seasons, before that workload started to take its toll. The Dodgers were world champions again in 1988 but Valenzuela was not a factor, injured the second half of the season and ineffective before that. Two years later he was released by the Dodgers, and then bounced around for several years. Scioscia, the Dodger franchise leader in career games caught, remained with the team his entire career, ending in 1992.

T16. 237 games (87.1%) – Stan Coveleski/Steve O’Neill 1916-23 Indians

Coveleski-ONeill

Coveleski was a 26 year-old rookie and O’Neill a 24 year-old veteran when these two debuted together in 1916, the Indians’ first season with star center-fielder Tris Speaker. With these three providing strength up the middle, Cleveland steadily improved, culminating in a world championship season in 1920. During their last seven years together Coveleski logged 200+ IP and posted an ERA+ over 120 each season, including four consecutive 20-win campaigns from 1918 to 1921. O’Neill departed for Boston after the 1923 season, and Coveleski left for Washington a year later (where he would be briefly reunited with Speaker in 1927).

T16. 237 games (65.7%) – Tom Seaver/Jerry Grote 1967-77 Mets

Seaver-Grote

Seaver was NL RoY in 1967, the 24 year-old Grote’s third campaign with 90 games caught. The Mets finished in their customary last place that season but better fortunes were just ahead with a world championship season in 1969 and an NL pennant (albeit with an 82-79 record) in 1973. In their first seven seasons together, Seaver logged 250+ IP with a 115 ERA+ and a .550 W-L% each season to join Kid Nichols as the only pitchers with that career start. Included were two Cy Young awards, three 20 win seasons and three times leading the NL in ERA, ERA+ and strikeouts (Seaver would add another season in 1975 with a CYA, 20 wins and a strikeout crown). But, all good things do come to an end. After seven winning seasons in eight years, the Mets crashed in 1977, their first of three straight last place finishes with 95+ losses, and dealt both Seaver and Grote during the season, to the Reds and Dodgers respectively.

19. 229 games (77.1%) – Cy Young/Lou Criger 1901-08 Americans/Red Sox

Cy Young and Lou Criger had been teammates in Cleveland and St. Louis in the NL when both “jumped” to the fledgling AL Boston Americans before the 1901 season. Though already into his mid-thirties, Young dominated the new league, leading the AL in wins in its first three seasons, culminating in a surprise triumph in the first World Series in 1903. In their eight seasons in Boston (both were traded after the 1908 season), Young recorded 275 IP every season, including six times over 300 IP, and led the AL five times in BB/9 and SO/BB, four times in WHIP, and three times in FIP. Criger was very much Young’s preferred catcher, teaming with the legendary right-hander in almost 39% of his catching starts over these seasons, including 57% (42 of 74) in 1902. It will be interesting to see how many more starts are added to this pair’s ledger once 19th century box scores become available (Criger caught 270 games over the 1896 to 1900 seasons, all as Young’s teammate).

20. 228 games (71.0%) – Steve Carlton/Tim McCarver 1965-69 Cardinals, 1972-79 Phillies

Carlton-McCarver

Carlton debuted in 1965 for the defending world champions as McCarver that season recorded his third straight campaign catching 100 games and batting .275, then the most ever (consecutive or not) by a Cardinal backstop. Another World Series title came in 1967 followed the next season by a third pennant in five years. But, when St. Louis dropped 10 games in the win column in 1969, McCarver was gone, dispatched with Curt Flood to the Phillies (McCarver reported, Flood didn’t) to acquire slugger Dick Allen. In this duo’s time in St. Louis, Carlton posted three qualified seasons with ERA under 3.00, the only Cardinal to do so before age 25. Two years after McCarver’s departure, Carlton joined his old batterymate in Philadelphia, but only briefly as McCarver was traded midway in the 1972 season and ended up back with the Cards in 1973 (Ted Simmons was now the everyday St. Louis catcher so, in his second Cardinal stint, McCarver managed only 9 starts with veteran right-hander Bob Gibson as that battery finished just three starts shy of the 200 mark). This duo reunited a third time when the Phillies signed McCarver as a free agent midway in the 1975 season, with McCarver becoming Carlton’s personal catcher starting in 1976 as Lefty began a four-year run that included two 20 win seasons, a second Cy Young award, and three straight NL East titles for the Phillies. McCarver retired after the 1979 season (but made a brief comeback late in the 1980 campaign as Philadelphia again claimed the NL East crown en route to the franchise’s first World Series title). Carlton would win two more Cy Young awards and remain with the Phillies until 1986 before bouncing around with a few clubs to close out his career.

21. 226 games (79.0%) – Madison Bumgarner/Buster Posey 2009-19 Giants

As rookies in 2010, this pair rode the wave all the way to a world championship, proving their mettle in the post-season with Posey catching every inning of the Giants’ championship run, and Bumgarner going undefeated in three post-seasons starts while posting  a stingy 2.18 ERA. Two more world titles would follow, with Bumgarner establishing himself as a legendary performer in the Fall Classic with a miniscule 0.25 ERA in 36 IP for his WS career, lowest among almost 200 pitchers with 10 or more WS IP. In the regular season, Bumgarner was the only major leaguer to  record 200 IP and an ERA under 3.50 each season from 2011 to 2016. After claiming the RoY award in 2010, Posey was MVP in 2012, and remains the career leader among active catchers in WAR and in all three slash categories. Giant fortunes declined following their championship run, with the 30 year-old Bumgarner moving to the Diamondbacks after the 2019 season, ending (for now, at least) this battery’s run of starts together.

22. 224 games (83.9%) – Lefty Grove/Mickey Cochrane 1925-33 Athletics
T32. 203 games (79.9%) – Rube Walberg/Mickey Cochrane 1925-33 Athletics

Cochrane-Grove-Walberg

Grove and Cochrane were rookies in 1925, joining Walberg whose career to that point was exceptional only in the wrong sense, with ERA, FIP and BB/9 all above 5.0 over his first two seasons. In this trio’s first season together, the Athletics recorded their first winning campaign since claiming the AL pennant 11 years before. Eight more winning seasons would follow, including three consecutive pennants from 1929 to 1931, the first two world championship seasons. Grove quickly established himself as the dominant pitcher of his time, with five seasons leading in ERA and ERA+, winning 20 games and claiming the strikeout crown, both in seven consecutive seasons, and winning the MVP award in the Athletics’ 1930 world championship season. Grove’s 195 wins with the Athletics are the most in the live ball era over the first 9 seasons of a career, while his 151 ERA+ has been exceeded (barely) only by Roger Clemens in 2000+ IP over those same 9 seasons. Cochrane matched Grove with his own MVP season in 1928 and averaged better than 0.8 WAR per 100 PA over his 9 seasons with the A’s, one of only nine catchers to start his career with that level of WAR production. After his rocky start, Walberg developed into a reliable starter, finishing his tenure in Philadelphia with seven consecutive 200 IP seasons, five of them with 16 or more wins. All three were traded after the 1933 season as Connie Mack sold off his star players; it would be a long dry spell for the A’s with only three winning seasons (1947-49) in the next 34 years.

23. 221 games (74.9%) – Paul Derringer/Ernie Lombardi 1933-41 Reds

Derringer-Lombardi

Lombardi was acquired from Brooklyn before the 1932 season and Derringer arrived from St. Louis a year later as Cincinnati, then in the middle of five straight 90 loss seasons, started a slow rebuilding process that culminated with consecutive pennants and a World Series title in 1939-40. Derringer lost 20 games in his first two seasons as a Red but would rebound with four 20 win seasons, the last two in Cincinnati’s two pennant winning seasons. Lombardi’s MVP season in 1938 was his fourth straight 350 PA campaign batting .330 with 130 OPS+, still the longest streak of such seasons by a catcher. The Braves purchased Lombardi before the 1942 season, and Derringer was sold to the Cubs a year later.

24. 212 games (60.6%) – Whitey Ford/Yogi Berra 1950-63 Yankees

Ford-Berra

This duo teamed with Mickey Mantle to form the foundation of the third and longest Yankee dynasty, claiming a remarkable 15 pennants and 10 World Series titles in the 18 seasons from 1947 to 1964. Ford posted a .720 W-L% (216-84) over those seasons, still remarkable even for such a powerhouse team. In ten of the last twelve of those seasons, Ford exceeded 200 IP and 15 wins, including his 1961 CYA season with a 25-4 record from a majors-leading 283 IP. Berra redefined the role of catcher with ten straight 20 HR/80 RBI seasons (1949-58), a streak by a catcher since matched only by Mike Piazza from 1993 to 2002 (Piazza whiffed at least 65 times in each of those seasons, while Berra never once reached even 40 K’s). That run included three MVP titles for Berra, the last two in consecutive seasons in 1954-55. Berra retired after the 1963 season to succeed Ralph Houk as Yankee manager, guiding the Bombers in 1964 to the last pennant of this dynasty. Ford would remain with New York his entire career, ending in 1967.

26. 209 games (63.0%) – Walter Johnson/Eddie Ainsmith 1910-18 Senators

Walter Johnson was in his fourth season when Eddie Ainsmith made his Senators’ debut in 1910. The two were used together only occasionally for Ainsmith’s first two seasons, but then made 20+ starts together for seven straight seasons (1912-18). Johnson was utterly dominant for those seasons, leading the AL each year in strikeouts, leading 6 times in WAR, Pitching WAR and SO/BB,  5 times in Wins and FIP,  4 times in IP, WHIP, ERA+, SO/9, CG and SHO, 3 times in ERA and twice in BB/9. While Johnson worked with several Senator catchers, Ainsmith caught predominately for the Big Train, teaming with Johnson in 48.4% of the catcher’s starts for those seven principal seasons. Ainsmith was traded before the 1919 season and played six more seasons, mainly with the Tigers and Cardinals. Johnson would remain a Senator his entire career, claiming a WS title in 1924 and retiring in 1927 with more than 400 wins, second only to Cy Young.

T27. 208 games (67.1%) – Mike Flanagan/Rick Dempsey 1976-86 Orioles

Flanagan-Dempsey

Flanagan was a rookie pitcher in 1976 when Dempsey arrived in Baltimore after a 10 player trade with the Yankees that also brought future Oriole stalwarts Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez. In Baltimore, Dempsey got his first chance to play on a regular basis and established himself as a reliable if unspectacular player, excelling on defense and regularly placing among the leading catchers in fielding percentage, assists and throwing out base stealers. Flanagan quickly developed into one of the AL’s better pitchers, turning in eight consecutive seasons (1977-84) with 20+ starts and a .500 or better record as Baltimore only twice finished more than three games out of the division lead, claiming the AL pennant in 1979 as Flanagan won the Cy Young award and a world championship in 1983. Dempsey left Baltimore as a free agent before the 1987 season and Flanagan was traded to Toronto early in the same year. The two were reunited in Baltimore in 1992, the final season for both, with Flanagan working out of the bullpen and Dempsey catching just a handful of games.

T29. 207 games (75.5%) – Jack Morris/Lance Parrish 1978-86 Tigers

Morris-Parrish

Morris and Parrish were both rookies in 1978, with each coming into his own the next season as Morris posted a solid 17-7 record with 133 ERA+ and Parrish provided some pop with 19 home runs and a ,276/.343/.456 slash. Those would become familiar accomplishments as Detroit developed into a consistent winning ball club culminating with a world championship season in 1984. Morris logged 240 IP (except in the strike-shortened 1981 season) and won at least 14 games with a winning record for all of the pair’s last 7 seasons together. Parrish developed into a consistent and durable slugger with 20 home runs each of those same 7 seasons (again excepting 1981) while catching 120 games every year (except 1981 and an injury-shortened 1986 season). Parrish left as a free agent before the 1987 season while Morris stayed until signing as a free agent in Minnesota before the 1991 season.

T29. 207 games (70.4%) – Cole Hamels/Carlos Ruiz 2006-15 Phillies

Hamels-Ruiz

Both players debuted in the 2006 season, with Hamels taking a regular turn in the starting rotation that season and Ruiz getting his first shot at regular play the next year as the Phillies claimed their first of five consecutive division crowns, including two pennants and a World Series title. Hamels was the Phillies ace in their 2008 world championship season, turning in his second of six 200 IP season with 130 ERA+. Ruiz caught 100 games in 7 of this duo’s 10 seasons together, including two seasons batting .300 with 125 OPS+. Ruiz’s 149 OPS+ in 2012 ranks 6th (5th excl. FL) since 1901 among all catchers in a 400 PA season with fewer than 20 home runs. In their final game together, Hamels no-hit the Cubs at Wrigley Field, then was dealt to the Rangers in a trade deadline deal. Ruiz was traded the following season, finishing his career with a brief stint as a Dodger and a final season in Seattle.

31. 206 games (65.6%) – Eddie Plank/Doc Powers 1901-09 Athletics

After playing for his hometown Gettysburg College, Plank made his major league and professional debut as a 25 year-old in the AL’s inaugural season. Joining him was 30 year-old Doc Powers (who really was a medical doctor), late of the NL’s Colonels and Senators, but relegated to the minors in 1900 when the NL contracted that year. In their eight seasons (plus one game) together, Plank established himself as a consistent and reliable starter, good for 300 IP, 30 or more CG, and 20-25 wins most seasons. Despite those credentials, Plank’s black ink is notably sparse, so it might be appropriate to think of him as a left-handed and better (over 35% better by WAR) version of Don Sutton. Plank was a hard luck pitcher in the 1905 World Series, allowing only 3 ER total in two CG losses, as the A’s were shut out in both games. Powers played in an era when catchers were not expected to provide much (or any) offensive value. But, Powers’ offensive prowess was historically bad, even for his era; he is one of only five players since 1901 to catch 500 games and post a career OPS+ under 50.

Shibe Park opened to start the 1909 season, and Plank and Powers were the A’s opening day battery for that historic game. In the 7th inning, Powers was seized with what he thought was an attack of gastritis, but he played out the full game. Admitted to hospital afterwards, Powers underwent three surgeries to remove gangrenous intestinal tissue, complications from which led to heart dilation that claimed his life two weeks later1. Plank would play on four pennant winners and two world championship teams in his 14 seasons for the A’s. He retired after the 1917 season with 326 career wins, including 21 in the Federal League.

T32. 203 games (65.9%) – Billy Pierce/Sherm Lollar 1952-61 White Sox

Pierce-Lollar

Lollar joined Pierce in Chicago after the 1951 season via a trade from the Browns that sent Jim Rivera the other way (Rivera would find his way back to Chicago before the 1952 season was done). Pierce was a promising young southpaw with the White Sox but had yet to learn to control his heater, averaging over 6.0 BB/9 over his first 450+ IP. He started turning that around in 1951, dropping his BB/9 under 3.0 and moving his SO/W ratio above 1.5. Working with Lollar, Pierce continued that improvement, posting a SO/W ratio above 1.7 in 180+ IP in each of their ten seasons together. Included were two 20 win seasons, two years leading in SO/9 and one (1955) leading in ERA, ERA+, WHIP and SO/W, one of just three live ball era seasons by a southpaw with 200 ERA+ in 200+ IP. The Sox posted a winning record in each of this duo’s ten seasons, finishing no lower than 3rd in all but their last year. Included was an AL championship in 1959, the first on the South Side since the Black Sox of 1919. Pierce’s 2931 IP for the White Sox are the most by a southpaw and rank fourth in franchise history, while Lollar’s 1241 games caught for the White Sox rank second only to Ray Schalk. Pierce departed for San Francisco after the 1961 season while Lollar remained with the Sox for the rest of his career, ending in 1963.

34. 202 games (61.0%) – Dave Stieb/Ernie Whitt 1980-89 Blue Jays

Stieb-Whitt

Whitt was a rookie and Stieb a sophomore in their first season together in 1980. It would be the first of eleven straight 180+ IP seasons for Stieb, seven with an ERA+ over 120. Included were two seasons leading in ERA+ and H/9, two leading in IP, and three straight years (1982-84) with 7 WAR and 10 complete games, a feat since matched only by Roger Clemens from 1986 to 1988. Whitt combined durability with consistent pop, catching 115 games for seven straight seasons (1983-89) and reaching double figures in home runs for eight straight years (1982-89). During their decade together, the Blues Jays rose from a last place club to a consistent contender with two AL East crowns and two seasons finishing just two games back of the division leaders. Stieb is the Blue Jays franchise leader in IP, Wins, Starts, CG and Shutouts while Whitt leads Toronto catchers in  games and most batting categories. Whitt was traded to the Braves after the 1989 season while Stieb stayed until the Blue Jays’ world championship season in 1992 before going to the White Sox as a free agent the next year.

35. 200 games (68.3%) – Doc White/Billy Sullivan 1903-12 White Sox

Both of these players were “jumpers” from the NL, Sullivan making the leap in the AL’s first season, and White joining him two years later. In their ten seasons together, the gangly (6’1″, 150 lb) White ranked second to Eddie Plank among major league southpaws in IP, Wins and CG, and had the lowest walk rate among lefties with 1500 IP. Complemented by righty Ed Walsh, White and the Sox were consistent contenders over this decade with five straight seasons (1904-08) of 87+ wins and no worse than a 3rd place finish, crowned by a World Series triumph over their cross-town NL rivals in 1906. Like his NL contemporary Bill Killefer (see no. 9 above), Sullivan was a defense first catcher (in 1906, he and the Cubs’ Jimmy Sheckard became the first two of only 5 players to go 0 for 20+ in a World Series). Sullivan and Killefer remain the only modern era players to catch 1000 games with double-digit dWAR and over three times as much dWAR as oWAR.

Warrington, Robert D., ‘A Ballpark Opens and A Ballplayer Dies: The Converging Fates of Shibe Park and “Doc” Powers‘, The Baseball Research Journal, Fall 2014, downloaded 19 Mar 2021

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Gary Bateman
Gary Bateman
6 months ago

This is good stuff, Doug. Jim Hegan had three battery mates he started with over 200 times, but I wonder what his number was with Mike Garcia, who started 272 games with the Indians between 1949-57. Hegan didn’t rest much, but perhaps he was given the day off for Garcia’s starts.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
6 months ago
Reply to  Gary Bateman

I found 142 starts for the Garcia/Hegan battery, let’s see what Doug finds. BTW per Baseball-Reference, Garcia had 281 GS for the Indians. There were 38 Garcia/Hal Narragon starts and 28 Garcia/Birdie Tebbetts starts.

Doug
Doug
6 months ago
Reply to  Gary Bateman

Thanks, Gary.

I have 142 starts for Garcia and Hegan, and 87 Indian wins in those games, for a 0.613 WPCT, similar to Wynn (0.636), Lemon (0.617) and Feller (0.600).

For 1946-57, the Indians were 744-519 (0.589) with Hegan starting, and 328-270 (0.549) with other catchers starting. That’s 51 wins better than the other catchers over 12 seasons, or about 4.3 wins better per season.

Paul E
Paul E
6 months ago

Kind of off the beaten path here – way off. So, I clicked on Eddie Plank’s link, noticed that he played in St. Louis for three seasons (on in the FL), and came across a 6’6″ hurler by the name of Dave Davenport (who had a 6’6″ brother Claude). Can any of you fellows tell me who was the only pitcher taller than these two ‘giants’ (who pitched prior to 1921)? (Sorry, I don’s have a stathead subscription).
Thanks !

Doug
Doug
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Answer is Cy Swaim, also 6’6″. Pitched for the Senators in 1897 and 1898.

I see that Roger Bresnahan also pitched for ’97 Sens, going 4-0 with a shutout in 5 starts and 1 relief outing. Had one more start in his career, in the 4th game of the 1901 season, and got shelled for 8 runs over 3 innings.

Last edited 6 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
6 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Thanks, Doug.

Doug
Doug
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Speaking of Plank, I see that he is the only pitcher with 200 IP and BB/9 under 2.5 in each of his first 10 seasons. Buehrle and Hubbell did it in all but their first season. Buehrle and Sandy Koufax are the only pitchers to lead their league in CG in their final season. That year, Buehrle started the last game of the season on one day of rest, trying, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to book two innings to get to 200 for the 15th straight season. It would have been quite the accomplishment, as the record for 200… Read more »

Doug
Doug
6 months ago

A new season is underway. Watched an entertaining and well-played game between the Yankees and Blue Jays, with Toronto prevailing 3-2 in 10 innings. First opening day extra-inning loss by the Yankees at home since 1982. Mike Tauchman becomes first pinch-runner to steal two bases in an opening day game.

Mike L
Mike L
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug, not sure where to put this, but really fine work..

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
6 months ago

Doug, this is incredible. Thank you!