Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
October 28, 2013
POLITICS: Conservatives Need More Carrot, Not Just More Stick


Conservatives are frustrated: why doesn't the Republican Party deliver better results for us? Part of the answer, of course, is that the Republican Party only controls so much of the government, but there remains a lot of resistance in GOP leadership to fighting for conservative priorities. Why?

Conservatives have tended to see this as a problem to be solved my making threats: We'll primary you! We'll stay home! Not One Cent! We'll go third party! In terms of asserting the legitimate supremacy of the voters over their elected representatives, these are healthy impulses. But they can never be a complete solution, because all these ideas are rule by the stick, by fear. And anyone who knows anything about managing or motivating people knows that fear alone has limits.

I submit that, if we want small-government conservatives and social conservatives to have real influence in the Republican Party, we need to go beyond the stick and offer the carrot; go beyond punishment and offer rewards. We need to prove to the leadership of the party that if they do what we want them to do, they will be richly rewarded with the things they value - advancement, re-election, fundraising, a growing caucus. Until we can offer those things, we will always be frustrated by the limits of our influence.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:00 AM | Politics 2013 | Comments (3)
October 17, 2013
POLITICS: Obamacare Can't Quit The Individual Mandate

The launch of Obamacare's online insurance exchanges has been such an operational trainwreck that even the White House Press Secretary, the DNC chair and boosters like Ezra Klein have had to acknowledge that it's been a disaster. Industry observers are mystified. But the technology is just the surface problem; the larger issue is that the entire economics of the insurance sold on the exchanges - always tenuous at best - is threatened by the combination of poor functionality, intrusiveness and sticker shock, leading not only critics like Phil Klein and Megan McArdle but even supporters like Jonathan Chait to argue that the Obama Administration should delay portions of the law to salvage it (more on that here) - a result that would be deeply ironic and humiliating to the Administration, after President Obama just spent a month beating back furious Republican efforts to force delays in the launching of the exchanges and the individual mandate. But suggestions for delaying the mandate without going hat in hand to an irate Republican Congress ignore an important reality: any delay of the individual mandate would risk lawsuits in which the legal positions the Obama Administration took to defend the mandate could come back to handcuff its freedom of action.

How Universal Insurance Is Designed To Work

Let's recall that the heart of Obamacare is not the exchanges and it's not the subsidies to help people buy policies they can afford; it's three rules designed to (1) compel both insurers and individuals to do business with each other, so that everyone gets covered, and (2) do so without bankrupting the insurers or sending the cost of subsidizing policies sky-high. The problem is pooling of risk: if only the sick and the old buy policies, the insurers will have to charge them as much for their policies as it would cost to just pay for their care, which defeats the entire point of insurance. You need some people paying in who are not already making claims, so you need to entice young, healthy people to buy insurance that effectively subsidizes the rest.

The first rule is guaranteed issue: insurers cannot turn away people with pre-existing conditions. This alone drives up the insurers' costs, which is why healthy people need to be compelled to buy their policies to keep the system solvent.

The second is community rating, which - to simplify - controls the premiums that can be charged by requiring insurers to price policies by looking at the risk of the entire pool rather than just the specific actuarial characteristics (including pre-existing conditions) of the individual. Community rating doesn't control the premiums of the overall pool, it just shifts and socializes that cost onto young, healthy policyholders.

The third is the individual mandate, which provides compulsion of the individual in the form of what the Supreme Court characterized as a tax. Without the mandate, healthy people may rationally choose not to buy overpriced insurance priced at community-rated premiums, leaving the insurers forced to cover a small, self-selected pool of the sick and the elderly.

Legal Trouble

Hypothetically, let's say the Administration decided to keep the exchanges open, requiring insurers to keep providing guaranteed-issue policies priced at community-rated terms, but announced that it would delay enforcing the individual mandate. There's no way the Administration could or would keep the exchanges open otherwise, since the whole economic benefit of the project for people in immediate need of coverage would be gone, and indeed many would simply be denied coverage.

But that would be a disaster for insurers, roped into the guaranteed-issue mandate but unable to compel healthy people to buy the policies that make guaranteed-issue even remotely economically feasible. They would simply hemorrhage money. And because businesses don't exist to hemorrhage money and the statute doesn't authorize a suspension of the mandate, some insurer would likely challenge any delay in court.

And that's where the Administration could be hoist on the petard of its own legal arguments. When Obamacare went to the Supreme Court, one of the issues presented was "severability": that is, if the Court struck down the individual mandate, would it also strike down the entire statute. The Solicitor General's brief on behalf of the Administration said no - but argued that if the mandate was struck down, the Court would have to also strike the guaranteed issue and community rating provisions because Congress would not have authorized them without the mandate. The key passages are pretty unambiguous:

The minimum coverage provision [i.e., the individual mandate] is essential to ensuring that the Act’s 2014 guaranteed-issue and community-rating reforms advance Congress’s goals… As Congress expressly found (and as experience in the States confirmed), those provisions would create an adverse selection cascade without a minimum coverage provision, because healthy individuals would defer obtaining insurance until they needed health care, leaving an insurance pool skewed toward the unhealthy.


The guaranteed-issue and community rating provisions ensure that all individuals have access to health insurance priced according to community-wide rates, rather than individual risk factors. Congress understood that, in a market governed by those provisions but lacking a minimum coverage provision, healthy individuals have an incentive to stay out until their need for insurance arises while, at the same time, those with the most serious immediate health-care needs have a strong incentive to obtain coverage. Premiums would therefore go up, further impeding entry into the market by those currently without acute medicate needs, risking a “market-wide adverse selection death spiral”…and restricting the availability of affordable health insurance – the opposite of what Congress intended.

Here's a longer excerpt of the SG's brief:


The brief goes on to detail Congress' "empirical support" from the experience of states that have experimented with community rating and guaranteed issue without a mandate, with bad results.

It's impossible to predict how the courts would rule on a legal challenge to delaying the mandate without delaying guaranteed issue and community rating. But the Administration's own legal arguments would provide a powerful argument for insurers that Congress never intended these provisions of the statute to be enforced against them while the mandate was not in effect.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:41 PM | Politics 2013 | Comments (0)
October 16, 2013
BASEBALL: The 400 Win Club And Then Some

I have a new baseball essay over at The Federalist looking at baseball's winningest pitchers if you combine their Major League, postseason, Minor League, and in some cases Japanese and Negro League wins. I looked at every pitcher who won 150 or more games in the majors plus every known minor league 300 game winner, plus anybody else I ran across who made the list, so it's possible there's a few people here and there I missed but unlikely that any of them (aside from people who spent their whole careers in Japan or the Negro Leagues) would crack 300. All numbers are through the 2013 postseason (in which Bartolo Colon went 0-1 and Freddy Garcia pitched without a decision). The charts in the article go down through 250 wins, but since I have extra space here, I'll run the rest of what I have here:

The 225-249 Win Club

18831898Adonis Terry1971963449222492220.52927
19812003David Cone1941268347402491690.59680
19291950Tommy Bridges1941384150362481750.58673
19131932Lee Meadows1881800260562482380.51010
19591979Mickey Lolich2171913127442472360.51111
19952013Roy Halladay2031053241352471420.635105
19131928Urban Shocker1871170160282471460.628101
18891901Amos Rusie*2461742461740.58672
19141940Sad Sam Jones2292170216102452290.51716
19661988Joe Niekro2212040024172452210.52624
18911908Brickyard Kennedy1871590158492452090.54036
19301947Bill Lee (I)1691570276332451920.56153
19301951Harry Gumbert14311300101842441970.55347
19111935Dutch Ruether1379511106842441800.57564
19381959Virgil Trucks (2)1771351065402431750.58168
18841895Bob Caruthers218997817162421230.663119
19822008Kenny Rogers2191563319392411980.54943
19671986Vida Blue2091611531182411840.56757
18951909Jack Chesbro19813243342411660.59275
19111934Bob Shawkey1951501345502412030.54338
19571975Claude Osteen1961951243322402290.51211
19391954Allie Reynolds1821077251322401410.63099
19121930Jesse Barnes (1)1521502084582382080.53430
19751995Dave Stewart16812910659462371810.56756
18741885Tommy Bond234163212361640.59072
18771889Will White2291667132361790.56957
18951910Al Orth20418932192362080.53228
19451964Billy Pierce2111691122192341890.55345
18981923Wild Bill Donovan1851391448232341660.58568
18821892Charlie Buffinton*233152002331520.60581
19651979Catfish Hunter224166962331720.57561
19972013Tim Hudson2051111327132331270.647106
19281947Lefty Gomez1891026038302331320.638101
19121931Bullet Joe Bush1961842534212322100.52522
19031923Red Ames1831670149472322150.51917
19912013Derek Lowe1761575751472322110.52421
19211945Red Lucas15713575542321890.55143
19091925Fred Toney1391020093622321640.58668
19211938Pat Malone1349203981132322080.52724
19541969Don Drysdale2091663319162311850.55546
19681989Doyle Alexander1941740537382312170.51614
19832003John Burkett1661362163592311960.54135
19862005Kevin Brown2111445514232301720.57258
19071921Hippo Vaughn1781371251462301850.55445
19721998Dennis Eckersley1971711331162291900.54739
19651985Mike Torrez1851602142462292070.52522
19351957Dizzy Trout1701611258422292050.52824
19261948Willis Hudlin15815671492292050.52824
19261942Larry French (*3)1971710231362282090.52219
19942013Bartolo Colon1891282437142281460.61082
19601978Wilbur Wood16415664462282020.53026
19982013CC Sabathia2051159513132271330.63194
19822000Dwight Gooden1941120433132271290.63898
19221941Firpo Marberry148880178662261550.59371
19021920Ed Walsh1951262028132251390.61886
19281945Lon Warneke (2)1921212131362251580.58767

The 200-224 Win Club

19051922Slim Sallee1741431349322241780.55746
18901903Frank Killen16413160482241790.55645
19771994Bob Welch21114633962231550.59068
18941912Chick Fraser17521248532232650.457-42
19391955Hal Newhouser2071502113182221690.56853
18971911Sam Leever1941000228222221240.64298
19541972Mudcat Grant1451192175332221530.59269
18971911Deacon Phillippe1891093229302211410.61080
19481967Jack Sanford (1)1371011283742211770.55544
18871906Red Ehret1391672079902202570.461-37
19131929Art Nehf1841204431192191430.60576
19221937General Crowder1671151251382191550.58664
19321948Claude Passeau1621501056412191910.53428
18971911Jack Taylor15213967432191820.54637
19111927George Mogridge1321331086512191840.54335
19741994Rick Sutcliffe1711391145512171910.53226
19101929Bill Doak16915748512172080.5119
19311950Rip Sewell1439774852171820.54435
19151932Bill Sherdel1651460451352161850.53931
19101942Clarence Mitchell1251390091702162090.5087
19381956Sal Maglie (2)119621296812161450.59871
18871899Jack Stivetts20313220962141380.60876
19821998Jimmy Key1861175323162141360.61178
19611975Dave McNally1841197423242141470.59367
19811999Mark Langston1791580033222121800.54132
19181935Eddie Rommel1711191040322121510.58461
19701989Bob Forsch1681363441372121770.54535
19471967Bob Buhl (2)1661320146442121770.54535
19031915Howie Camnitz1331060179462121530.58159
19381958Bob Lemon (3)20712822262111360.60875
19501966Bob Friend1972300214132112450.463-34
19611974Mel Stottlemyre1641391146232111630.56448
19972013Roy Oswalt1631025243282111320.61579
19301947Dizzy Dean150832259292111140.64997
19721990Bob Knepper1461550165452112010.51210
19281945Johnny Allen142750069502111250.62886
19471967Curt Simmons (1)193183011762101900.52520
19141930Howard Ehmke (1)1661661043182101840.53326
19461961Don Newcombe (2)149900461262101200.63690
19421961Mike Garcia (3)142970168452101430.59567
19571973Milt Pappas20916400012091650.55944
19011917Doc White1891561119162091730.54736
19241936George Earnshaw127934378482091440.59265
19731993John Candelaria1771222229112081350.60673
19631982Rick Wise1881812017202072010.5076
19321951Schoolboy Rowe (2)1581012547202071260.62281
19852002Chuck Finley20017312522061770.53829
19932012Kevin Millwood1691523334352061900.52016
19902008Hideo Nomo1231090283522061630.55843
18861897Silver King*203152262051580.56547
19291950Bucky Walters19816022562051680.55037
19731992Mike Flanagan1671433235162051610.56044
19681984Paul Splitorff1661432037322051750.53930
19942011Javier Vazquez1651601139162051770.53728
19761998Danny Darwin17118233222042040.5000
19001910Addie Joss1609744342041310.60973
19191939George Uhle20016600342031700.54433
19992013Mark Buehrle186142211582031510.57352
18951909Bill Dinneen1701773130242032020.5011
19952013Freddy Garcia1561086341302031410.59062
18811890Jim Whitney19120411112022150.484-13
19962012Livan Hernandez*178177731692011890.51512
19781998Dave Stieb1761371324122011520.56949
19711989Ron Guidry170915226272011200.62681
19001914Earl Moore16315438292011830.52318
19872006Kevin Appier1691370231252001640.54936
19481966Bob Purkey (2)1291150171512001670.54533

Honorable Mention

19091920Tom Seaton9265108842001490.57351

The 150-199 Win Club

19231945Guy Bush1761361122111991480.57351
19361955Johnny Sain (3)1391162258411991590.55640
19021915Frank Smith13911160531991640.54835
19471965Harvey Haddix (1)1361132061331991460.57753
19791997Fernando Valenzuela*1731535120161981700.53828
19631983Rudy May1521560146291981860.51612
19791999Tom Candiotti1511640147401982050.491-7
19511971Camilo Pascual1741700123161971870.51310
19771994Bill Gullickson1621361234241971620.54935
19761994Bruce Hurst1451133249311971460.57451
19411962Gerry Staley (3)1341110163351971470.57350
18881899Frank Dwyer17715119161961670.54029
19031917Ed Reulbach*182106201051941110.63683
19441966Joe Nuxhall13511759671941840.51310
18931906Red Donahue16417528221921970.494-5
19831998Doug Drabek1551342534251911640.53827
19842005Al Leiter1621322326461901810.5129
18851896Ice Box Chamberlain1571202331281901510.55739
19181936Tom Zachary186191301891910.497-2
19811996Frank Viola1761503110111891620.53827
19992013Barry Zito165143631871891530.55336
19651979Ken Holtzman17415064831881570.54531
19711989Rick Rhoden1511250137341881600.54028
18831890Ed Morris1711221661871280.59459
19842000Tim Belcher1461404237351871770.51410
19832001Bret Saberhagen1671172417101861310.58755
19391956Howie Pollet (2)1311160155161861330.58353
19481967Vernon Law (2)1621472021201851670.52618
19331949Mort Cooper128752354551841330.58051
18911901Nig Cuppy162980121141831130.61870
19221937Rube Walberg (*1)1551411127271831690.52014
18861895Mark Baldwin*15416529251831900.491-7
19902010Mike Hampton1481152433251831440.56039
18921908Pink Hawley*16717915151821940.484-12
18801888Larry Corcoran*1778934180930.65987
19912006Brad Radke1481392330351801770.5043
19771996Scott Sanderson163143001681791510.54228
19912007Aaron Sele1481120631181791360.56843
19511969Johnny Podres1481164126161781330.57245
19261941Bump Hadley161165211471771730.5064
19942013Chris Carpenter1449410423411771390.56038
19501965Frank Lary (2)12811648261761420.55334
19281949Thornton Lee*11712459661761900.481-14
18821890Guy Hecker*1751461751460.54529
19811995Mike Moore161176431091751880.482-13
19711985Steve Rogers1581523114261751790.494-4
19641979Jim Lonborg1571372316121751520.53523
19691986Jim Slaton151158102381751660.5139
18891903Sadie McMahon*173127101741270.57847
18751889George Bradley*171151331741540.53020
19381954Preacher Roe127842144391731240.58249
18891902Jouett Meekin15213320241721570.52315
19411955Vic Raschi (3)13266533330170990.63271
19551966Sandy Koufax1658743169900.65379
19892002Andy Benes155139111261681460.53522
18841896Dave Foutz?1476636184168760.68992
18771894Monte Ward*164103001641030.61461
19311946Hal Schumaker (3)15812122421641250.56739
19711985Burt Hooton15113663741641430.53421
19061920Jack Coombs158110501631100.59753
19321955Spud Chandler* (2)10943224741158860.64872

Honorable Mention

19972013Hiroki Kuroda687022103891731610.51812
19992013Daisuke Matsuzaka534031117741731150.60158

The Rest

18711876Dick McBride14978149780.65671
18721877Candy Cummings*14594171461010.59145
19141935Babe Ruth944630229119550.68464
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:05 PM | Baseball 2012-14 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3)
October 15, 2013

The 350-399 Win Club

Let's move a little more quickly through the rest of the list, stopping to highlight a few things along the way.

18991916Christy Mathewson3731885520153982080.657190
19832007Roger Clemens3541841281363791980.657181
18741894Pud Galvin*3653101263773160.54461
19581983Gaylord Perry3142651155463703120.54358
19371963Early Wynn (1)3002441266553673010.54966
18821894John Clarkson*328178253493641920.655172
19591987Phil Niekro (1)3182740143253613000.54661
19641988Steve Carlton3292446624113592610.57998
19121935Burleigh Grimes2702123486573592730.56886
19651988Don Sutton324256642493542690.56885
18791893Tim Keefe*34222543793532370.598116
19842009Tom Glavine305203141631333502520.58198

In the 350-399 win range, we encounter the question of "cheating," as the 350-win club includes two known steroid users and three known spitballers. Besides Roger Clemens, the other "steroid" user is Hall of Famer Pud Galvin, who experimented briefly with a testosterone elixir (probably an ineffectual patent medicine), drinking it openly on the field as it was not illegal at the time. Galvin was just a slightly above-average pitcher but a ridiculous workhorse even for his day, averaging 495 innings a year for a decade from age 22-31; he died at 45 from stomach inflammation. The spitball story is a similar one: Burleigh Grimes was one of the men "grandfathered" and thus allowed to throw a legal spitball in the 1920s, whereas Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton were both famous and illegal defacers of the ball. I mentioned the study of High Quality Starts: the only two pitchers to make 300 of them since 1920 are Sutton (310) and Clemens (308).

Sutton was sort of the poor man's Spahn: his season ERAs and other stats were rarely eye-popping, but he started 27 games and pitcher 207 innings in 1968, 23 games in the strike-shortened 1981, but otherwise started at least 31 games in each of the other 20 seasons between 1966 and 1987. His second season, 1967, was his only really poor year, although a number of others were more modestly subpar. His only real injury was while bunting in September 1980. Ask any manager how valuable it is to have a guy you can just pencil in the rotation and leave him there for 22 years.

Perry was 32 years old when the Giants traded him for Sam McDowell, who was four years younger, in December 1971. Perry won 180 more games, McDowell won 19. It's hard today to believe the workloads that Perry carried within living memory: he averaged 321 innings, 39 starts and 25 complete games a year from age 30-36, 1969-75, the last three of those against lineups that used the DH. Yet he stayed healthy enough to win the Cy Young at 39 and pitch until he was 44.

I had always just assumed that Phil Niekro's late start in the majors was wholly due to learning the knuckleball, but he missed his age-24 season in the military in 1963. In 1982, at age 43, Niekro threw a 2-hit shutout against the Giants (with whom the Braves entered the game tied for second place) on September 27, then came back and threw a 3-hit, no-walk shutout on 3 days' rest against the Padres; they were his only two shutouts of the year, and gave Joe Torre's Braves the division by one game over the Dodgers.

Christy Mathewson, who shares the NL career win record with Alexander, also shares having his life ruined by World War I; Mathewson inhaled poison gas during a training exercise, wrecking his lungs. He was already at the end of his playing career (he had hit the wall after age 33), but the illness ended his managing career and he would be dead of tuberculosis by age 45. Mathewson, who threw straight overhand with tremendous control and the very occasional deployment of his devastating "fadeaway" (a precursor to the screwball) was a preposterous 303-120 with a 1.91 ERA from 1903-1913, age 22-32, and at the peak of the Giants-Cubs rivalry in 1908-09, he went 62-17 with a 1.31 ERA while Three Finger Brown, the Cubs' ace, went 56-18 with a 1.39 ERA. In the 1905 World Series, Matty would throw three shutouts in six days; in the 1919 World Series, recuperating in the press box, he was one of the few men willing to question whether the Series was on the level.

Tom Glavine should skate into the Hall on the strength of 305 wins, five 20-win seasons and leading the National League in starts six times. As a Mets fan I don't recall him as fondly as many Braves fans do, especially given his role in the 2007 season-ending collapse (he gave up seven runs and retired just one batter in the first inning of Game 162; the Mets had entered the final day tied for first), but Glavine in his one postseason trip for the Mets in 2006 was 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA.

Honorable Mention

19281953Tony Freitas (3)25333482433732760.57597
19271952William Thomas3683353683350.52333
19261953Dick Barrett35583172513523090.53343

I'm listing separately the pitchers who won less than half their games in the majors. Thomas, the winningest minor league pitcher ever, was a wandering control pitcher in the low minors in a hitters' era; he was 244-258 with a career ERA around 3.53 through age 38 before he started rolling up good won-loss records against war-depleted Southern Association competition, so there's no real reason to think he would have been a top major league pitcher. Freitas, by contrast, had some modest if fleeting success in the majors and rolled up most of his wins in the Pacific Coast League.

The 325-349 Win Club

19071935Jack Quinn24721801101653482840.55164
19651993Nolan Ryan3242922221103473040.53343
19081928Stan Coveleski215142321271043452480.58297
19281953Bobo Newsom211222221311063443300.51014
19852009Randy Johnson3031667929273392020.627137
19091933Red Faber (1)2542133179643362780.54758
19611989Tommy John2882316341303352640.55971
19121935Dazzy Vance197140001331293302690.55161
19011920Three Finger Brown2391305485523291860.639143
19011917Eddie Plank326195253282000.621128
19842012Jamie Moyer2692093356353282470.57081
19621983Fergie Jenkins28422643263272520.56575
19661986Tom Seaver3112053312123262200.597106


Dazzy Vance was, as measured relative to the league, the highest-strikeout pitcher of all time, despite not winning a major league game until he was 31. Vance's rate of strikeouts per batter faced was 222% of the league average, 228% in his power-pitching prime from age 31-42. Nobody else is over 200% career, although Bob Feller, Grove and Rube Waddell are all over 200% if you focus on their prime years. Vance may have had some unique help from Ebbetts Field (it was said that he bleached his pitching sleeve and often threw against the backdrop of white laundry hung by Brooklyn housewives from clotheslines behind the park); the numbers show that from 1922-32, the years he was with the Dodgers, he had a 2.67 ERA and averaged 7.3 K per 9 innings at home, a 3.67 ERA and 5.1 K/9 on the road. Grimes, his teammate, had a 2.70 ERA at Ebbets from 1918-26, 3.38 on the road, but wasn't a big strikeout pitcher (1.7 K/9 at home, 1.4 on the road).

Mordecai Peter Centennial "Three Finger" Brown, one of baseball's unique stories due to the boyhood farm accident that left him with a mangled pitching hand that naturally threw curveballs, didn't even play in the minors until he was 24. Brown's teams had among the best team defenses in baseball history, a great edge for a guy who, from 1906-09, walked just 1.6 batters per 9 innings and allowed 5 home runs in 1165.1 innings. Yet, by 1911, Brown was making nearly half his appearances in relief (between 1906-11, he is credited with 38 shutouts and 38 saves).

Stan Coveleski is one of those Hall of Famers whose resume of a high-quality but relatively short career (his ERA+ from age 27-35 is a sterling 136) looks more impressive when you throw in 127 minor league wins between age 19-25.

Eddie Plank is the first pitcher we encounter here who never pitched in the minors; lefthanded pitching was sufficiently rare in baseball's early days that when Plank retired, he had won 129 more games than any other lefty.

Honorable Mention

19131940George Payne (1)113482623492630.57086
19231949Sam Gibson32383072003392380.588101
19101931Oyster Joe Martina68003302683362760.54960
19151941Alex McColl44003322633362670.55769
19021920Charles Baum3272793272790.54048
18911911Ted Breitenstein160170165923252620.55463
19171938Frank Shellenback10153001793101940.615116

Ted Breitenstein holds some quasi-legitimate records for most hits and runs allowed in a season, their legitimacy based on drawing the recordbooks' line across 1893, the year the mound was moved back to 60 feet six inches. Relocating to the more lenient Southern Association after the turn of the century, he posted a 2.02 ERA from age 32-42, including ERAs of 1.05, 1.33, 1.48, and 1.53.

Bill James, in the Historical Baseball Abstract, picked longtime Pacific Coast League hurler Frank Shellenback as the best minor league pitcher of all time; he was a spitballer cut by the White Sox in mid-1919 who had the misfortune of being in the minors and not "grandfathered" when the pitch was outlawed the following year.

The 300-324 Win Club

18791892Mickey Welch*3072101216143242260.58998
18811902Tony Mullane28422038263222460.56776
19571983Jim Kaat2832371336333202730.54047
19131937Jesse Haines21015831107613202200.593100
19912013Andy Pettitte256153191143223181860.631132
18881914Clark Griffith23714678553152010.610114
19691992Bert Blyleven287250512273142580.54956
18861910Gus Weyhing26423250533142850.52429
19051927Babe Adams19414030116613132010.609112
18791891Old Hoss Radbourn*309194303121940.617118
19031927Chief Bender2121276494443121750.641137
19211948Charlie Root20116003111833122460.55966
19241943Carl Hubbell2531544252383091940.614115
19271946Paul Derringer2332122474533092690.53540
18711887Bobby Mathews2972488133052610.53944
19481967Robin Roberts286245011443002500.54550

Tony Mullane is best known for being Irish-born and ambidextrous, occasionally toying with throwing with each hand; he won 284 big-league games despite missing the 1885 season, at the age of 26, after being suspended for jumping a contract. Mullane averaged 34 wins a year the prior three seasons and 30 a year the next three, so he would have easily had 300. But perhaps it's just as well, given how he treated his catcher, African-American pioneer Fleet Walker, in 1884:

“Moses Fleetwood Walker was the best catcher I ever worked with, but I disliked a Negro and whenever I had to pitch to him, I used to pitch anything I wanted without looking for the signals,” wrote Mullane of Walker, his former teammate with the Toledo Blue Stockings. “One day he signaled me for a curve ball and I shot a fast ball at him. He caught it and walked down to me. He said: ‘I’ll catch you without signals but I won’t catch you if you are going to cross me when I give you signals.’ And all the rest of the season he caught me and caught anything I threw. I pitched without him knowing what was coming.”

Mullane threw 63 wild pitches in 64 starts that year; Walker was charged with 72 passed balls in 41 games, albeit not that many more than teammate Deacon McGuire (66 in 41 games).

Andy Pettitte finishes up as a 275 game winner in the majors if you include the postseason.

Babe Adams, a control specialist, had a really remarkable baseball odyssey, going back to the minors four times over his career yet pitching all but one of his big-league games between ages 25 and 44 for the Pirates, for whom he was the hero of the 1909 World Series and would make his last World Series appearance as a 43 year old in 1925. From 1919-22, Adams walked 74 batters in 857.2 innings.

Bert Blyleven, the best pitcher born in Holland, had 167 wins and a career ERA+ of 127 in 3000.2 innings from age 19-30; Sandy Koufax had 165 wins and a career ERA+ of 131 in 2324.1 innings from age 19-30. Blyleven would win 131 more games, including three seasons when he was in the top 4 of the Cy Young balloting after age 30; Koufax was retired at 30. Oddly, Blyleven, the last man to throw 20 complete games, holds the single season record for no-decisions, with 20.

Chief Bender and Jesse Haines are both marginal Hall of Famers (in Haines' case, far below marginal) who pitched multiple big World Series games and had long minor league records. Bender won 212 games between age 19-33, left baseball to spend a year working in the shipyards to support the war effort in 1918 (I don't credit him for missed time because he wasn't actually in the military, but that may be a quibble), then had a second act in the minors starting with a season of 29-2 with a 1.06 ERA in the lowly Virginia League in 1919. He made one more brief cameo in the majors at 41, and had a 1.33 ERA in the Middle Atlantic League in his professional coda at 43.

There are four great pitchers who really stand out from their own contemporaries for their workloads at their peak, relative to the years they pitched in: Robin Roberts in the early 50s, Bob Feller in the late 30s to the season of his return from the war, Phil Niekro in the late 70s, and John Clarkson in the mid-late 1880s. But Niekro was a knuckleballer, and Clarkson was just doing what everybody else had been doing 5 years earlier; only 12 pitchers between 1924 and 1962 threw 320 innings in a season, and three of those were Roberts in consecutive seasons (in that 3-year stretch he averaged 338 innings and 31 complete games), and three others were Feller, albeit separated by four years in which Feller didn't pitch due to the war. Roberts tossed 300 innings six years in a row and less than 3 innings short of a seventh, at a time when the #2 workhorse in the game (Warren Spahn) was miles behind. Like Mariano Rivera, Roberts in his prime threw basically one pitch, a fastball with great movement and pinpoint control, and that put little strain on his arm.

Honorable Mention

19101933Rube Benton150144111721363232810.53542
18981928Long Tom Hughes132174011891653213400.486-19
19071929Harry Krause36262812373172630.54754

Harry Krause led the AL in ERA at age 20 with a 1.39 mark in 1909, albeit on a team where Plank, Bender and Cy Morgan were all below 1.80. But he flamed out of the majors by age 23 and missed most of the A's dynasty that would follow.

The 275-299 Win Club

19111930Wilbur Cooper21617883762992540.54145
19741998Dennis Martinez2451932251232982180.57880
19471967Whitey Ford (2)23610610851202971340.689163
19231947Red Ruffing* (2)2732257216272962540.53842
19581975Juan Marichal2431420150262931690.634124
19091926Hooks Dauss23318260492932310.55962
19191944Earl Whitehill2181851074552932400.55053
19902008Mike Mussina270153781442911650.638126
19661994Charlie Hough2162160075552912710.51820
19641984Jim Palmer268152831462901610.643129
19201943Freddie Fitzsimmons2171460373642902130.57777
19091929Jeff Pfeffer (1)15811201130982882110.57777
19121931Carl Mays2081263475572861870.60599
19611982Luis Tiant*2291723052302842020.58482
19571975Bob Gibson2511747225252832010.58582
18951910Vic Willis2492050131322802380.54142
19501971Jim Bunning22418455662792500.52729
19862007Curt Schilling21614611250432771910.59286
19761994Jack Morris2541867415132762030.57673

Whitey Ford started 156 career games in which the Yankees scored 6 runs or more, and never lost one of them. And he did that despite facing unusually stiff competition. In his rookie season, Ford made just 2 of his 12 starts against .500 or better teams - but from his return from the Army in 1953 until Casey Stengel's last season in 1960, Ford made more than half his starts against .500 or better teams. Partly that's because more than half the rest of the league was over .500 in those years, but in 1954, 1959 and 1960 there were only two other winning teams in the AL. One of the great what-ifs is what the early 50s World Serieses look like if Ford is on the 1951 and 1952 Yankees and Don Newcombe is on the 1952 and 1953 Dodgers instead of in the military (the 1952 and 1953 Serieses went to the Yankees in 7 and 6 games, respectively). From Ford's arrival in July 1950 through the end of the 1954 season, counting the postseason, the Yankees went 267-134 (a .666 winning percentage).

The best defensive support of any pitcher - most sophisticated fielding metrics place Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger among the four or five most valuable defensive players of all time, and that's before we get to Paul Blair - helped Jim Palmer throw a High Quality Start in 47.6% of his career starts, the best of any post-1920 pitcher.

We don't really have a full record of what Luis Tiant did before coming to the U.S., as he had been pitching since "age 16."

As I've noted before, Jack Morris actually had two great "years" that just weren't within a single season: from June 1, 1983 to May 31, 1984, Morris was 27-9 with a 2.36 ERA, with 24 complete games and 248 strikeouts in 317 innings; from July 5, 1986 through July 4, 1987, he went 26-5 with a 2.98 ERA. Had he done those in two single seasons, he might be in the Hall of Fame now even with the same relatively unimpressive career resume.

Honorable Mention

19101933Ray Caldwell134120011591472932680.52225
19281950Luke Hamlin73762131472862230.56263
19101930Jim Bagby12789111511312792210.55858
19271966Satchel Paige2831002481032761340.673142

Jim Bagby, like Krause, tasted big-league greatness for a short time, winning 31 games in 1920 as the ace of the Indians' first World Championship team.

Satchel Paige started pitching in 1927 and was, in his last publicity-stunt start in the minors in 1966, a teammate of Johnny Bench. He went 21-12 with a 2.15 ERA at age 49-50 pitching for Miami in the International League in 1956-57. He threw shutouts in his second and third major league starts, at what was probably the age of 41. As uneven as the statistical record of his career is, every piece of it points to a tremendous pitcher, one who racked up 1990s-style strikeout rates against all types of competition between the 1920s and early 1940s and who was still far above the league strikeout average in the majors in his mid-40s.

The 250-274 Win Club

18771887Jim McCormick*26521433662742230.55151
19281947Curt Davis15813101115932732250.54848
19822007David Wells23915710522282711900.58881
18841897Bill Hutchinson*18216387542692170.55352
19131935Dolf Luque1941791072452672240.54443
19371956Eddie Lopat1661124197822671950.57872
19361966Bob Feller (4)266162022661640.619102
19121933Eppa Rixey (1)266251012662520.51414
18971914Jack Powell24525421182662720.494-6
19051920Eddie Cicotte2091482355362661870.58779
19721993Frank Tanana240236012482642450.51919
19161938Waite Hoyt2371826421442642300.53434
19061933Rube Marquard2011772561432642250.54039
18941913Jesse Tannehill19711765342621510.634111
19371959Murray Dickson1721810190632622450.51717
19231946Ted Lyons (3)2602302602300.53130
19902009Pedro Martinez2191006435202601240.677136
19471967Lew Burdette2031444253492601950.57165
19141934Ray Kremer14385221151452602320.52828
19121934Herb Pennock (1)2411625013102591720.60187
18971913Rube Waddell19314365502581930.57265
19271947Mel Harder23318624152572010.56156
19671990Jerry Reuss2201912834332562320.52524
19651985Jerry Koosman2222094028302542390.51515
19011915George Mullin2281963322222532210.53432
19561975Jim Perry2151740138282532030.55550
18711877Al Spalding25265252650.795187
19892011Tim Wakefield2001805747492522360.51616
19571977Mike Cuellar1851304463602521940.56558
19421972Hoyt Wilhelm (3)14312200109672521890.57163
19351953Harry Brecheen1339241114772511700.59681
19701991Rick Reuschel2141911435152502100.54340
19862009John Smoltz21315515422262501850.57565
19792000Orel Hershiser2041508338302501830.57767
19511968Larry Jackson19418356322502150.53835
19301953Dutch Leonard19118159572502380.51212

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 PM | Baseball 2012-14 | Comments (0)
WINFILES: Baseball's 400 Win Club

Let's take a new look at an old-fashioned topic: baseball's winningest pitchers.

One of baseball's most unique aspects is the outsize role of the starting pitcher in each game, reflected in the fact that only a pitcher (usually the starter) is assigned a "win" or "loss." Even today's advanced statistical formulas confirm the primacy of the starting pitcher: using the popular "Wins Above Replacement" metric, Babe Ruth in 1923 is the only non-pitcher since 1872 to play more than 8 games in a season and earn more than 1 WAR per 11 games played; 167 starting pitchers have topped that threshold just since 2010. Put another way, in any given baseball game, a typical #1 or 2 starting pitcher is at least as valuable to his team as Babe Ruth at his best.

That's never more true than in October. In the era of three divisions and a wild card (expanded in 2012 to a play-in game, and sometimes requiring a play-into-the-play-in game), starting pitchers throw fewer regular-season innings and make more postseason starts than ever in the game's history. 2013 saw the end of the career of Andy Pettitte, whose 44 career postseason starts and 276.2 career postseason innings are career records and represent more than 8% of his career workload and more than a full season's work for a 21st century pitcher. This will also be the first year on the Hall of Fame ballot for Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Mike Mussina, all stalwarts of the post-1994 October order (it's also the second year of Curt Schilling on the ballot, and next year we get John Smoltz). The games they won there are a part of their stories.

The Story Of The Win

Traditionally, 300 wins has been the gold standard for a successful pitching career. There's a simple logic to this: 30 wins a year for a decade, or 20 wins a year for 15 years, or 15 wins a year for 20 years, or 12 wins a year for 25 matter how you slice it, you need an exceptional combination of success and durability to win that many games. And winning games is, after all, the point of playing them; a starting pitcher who walks off the field with a W can always feel satisfied with his day.

In the age of advanced statistical analysis, wins have come under a lot of criticism as a yardstick of pitching success. Much of that criticism is fair. Pitchers have always been at the mercy of their offensive and defensive support to win games; while some of these factors even out over the course of a career, not all do. Among the greats, for example, Jim Palmer had unusually good defensive support, while Warren Spahn and Christy Mathewson had unusually good offenses behind them.

Then again, applying current criticisms of the win retrospectively can overlook the extent to which the game has changed over time. The big change in the starter's role is the role of the bullpen: with starters finishing ever fewer of their games and increasingly leaving games in the fifth or sixth inning, they are more and more at the mercy of their bullpens as well. This is not a new trend - complete games have been in steady decline since the dawn of organized baseball in the 1870s, part of a broader pattern of declining pitcher workloads - but the late 1970s was really the tipping point, after which it became accepted that even a staff ace would finish no more than half of his own games. Roger Clemens in 1987 was the last starter to finish half his starts; no pitcher did that more than twice after 1977. By contrast, Spahn completed at least half his starts in 17 different seasons, Fergie Jenkins in 9 seasons. The argument that awarding wins to the starter vs the reliever is arbitrary may be a fair one in the baseball of 2013, but it made a lot more sense in Spahn's day. And in other ways, pitchers have more control over their situation than they used to - defense is actually less important in today's game than ever before, due to historically low percentages of plate appearances resulting in a ball in play - down to around 70% where it was once above 90%. Instead, we're more likely than ever to see a time at bat end with a walk, strikeout or home run, all of which are one-on-one contests between pitcher and batter.

So, if we're doing a sophisticated look at ranking baseball's best pitchers, we'd use multiple measurements more precise than their win totals. But if the win has fallen from its once-privileged place in the world of analysis, career won-loss records still tell a story of the great pitching careers, of successes and failures both earned and fortuitous - and any list of the game's winningest pitchers over their careers will still overlap quite a lot with any list of the game's best. As Joe Posnanski has written, sometimes you have to sit back and let the numbers tell those stories. To expand that story, let's taking a look baseball's winningest professional pitchers, including not only the postseason but also the minor leagues and in some cases other professional leagues in the United States and abroad. As we'll see, in some cases there's a good deal more to the story, our appreciation of which can only be deepened by taking in the whole picture.

Major, Minor; Season, Postseason

Now that has expanded to more comprehensive (if still not 100% complete) coverage of the minor leagues, we have a consistent source of data to see the all-time wins list in a new light - because most everybody on the list of the game's great pitchers has won games outside of their career win totals. Some pitched a good deal in the postseason, as noted. And most pitched at least some years in the minor leagues, others quite a few years, as we will see below. It was particularly common in the years between 1900 and 1940 for major league players to not only spend years working their way up the minor league ladder, but also spend additional years working their way back down it once their major league primes had passed.

To understand why, a very brief history is in order. Professional, league baseball began with the National Association in 1871, followed five years later by the foundation of the National League. The "major" leagues were in a state of flux from 1871 until the American League opened up shop in 1901, and unsurprisingly, other "minor" leagues were even less stable in terms of things like keeping the same franchises in business from year to year, having a standard length to the schedule and keeping players on their rosters from jumping teams - to say nothing of their record-keeping. The numbers laid out below include largely complete minor league records from around 1900 onward, but are much spottier for the 19th century.

Beginning in 1903, the NL and AL each had 8 teams, which didn't change cities until 1953; none of those teams was south or west of St. Louis, leaving many markets without a major league team. The leagues also stopped raiding each other's rosters, with the brief exception of the 1914-15 Federal League experiment, baseball's last effort at a third major league. This was an era of peace and stability in the game, but it left the players little bargaining power, so few made very much money. And until Branch Rickey began building the first farm system beginning in the early 1920s, most minor league teams were independent businesses. The result was that many experienced players spent significant time in the minor leagues - either they liked it on the West Coast (the Pacific Coast League being the most powerful minor league), or their teams wouldn't sell them to the majors, or they were ex-big-leaguers employed as player-managers or just looking to make a living. Between the late teens and the early 1950s, there were also Negro League teams composed of black players who couldn't cross MLB's color line, although for a variety of economic reasons the Negro Leagues generally played less regular schedules than white baseball did (contributing to the difficulty of getting reliable Negro League statistics). Minor league competition was rarely the equal of the big leagues, but these were nonetheless competitive leagues.

With that background in mind, let's take a look at baseball's winningest pitchers, adding up major league wins, minor league wins and major league postseason wins. I haven't included exhibitions like spring training or the All-Star Game (starters can only go three innings in the ASG anyway), and stats on the minor league postseason are too irregularly kept to be included. In a few cases down the list, I include statistics from Japan, and in just one (Satchel Paige) is there sufficient information to include Negro League stats.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:42 PM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 1, 2013
POLITICS: How Obamacare Burns the Ships

My latest over at The Federalist.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:56 PM | Politics 2013 | Comments (3)