STRIKE ONE -- NO AGONY OF DEFEAT DEPT.
The e-mails have been flying in since I wrote last week that I'd rate Andy Pettitte as Not Quite a Hall of Famer. As always, you folks have been doing your research!
An e-mailer I'll identify only as Gene wrote in with this amazing tidbit:
In the history of baseball, with one bizarre additional exception I'll mention in a bit, only two pitchers with 10 or more winning seasons have never had a losing season: Spud Chandler, and Andy Pettitte.
Chandler had exactly 10 winning seasons, Pettitte had 15; both had one season that were neither winning nor losing seasons, Chandler in '44 went 0 and 0, and Pettitte in '08 was 14-14.
Great little tidbit. And I tried my best to check this out. But here's the problem I ran into:
According to the fabulous 2011 edition of Lee Sinins' Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, 144 different pitchers have had at least 10 winning seasons -- if you don't care whether they were starters or relievers, or how much or little they pitched.
Now maybe there's somebody out there who has the time to check all 104 of them to see if they ever had a losing season. But I'm not one of those somebodies. So I decided to answer a slightly different question:
I concluded I needed a minimum number of starts. So I looked at all seasons in which a pitcher made three starts or more. And I learned something astounding.
Andy Pettitte is one of 20 starting pitchers in history who have had at least 15 winning seasons (of three starts or more). But
He's the ONLY pitcher in history with that many winning seasons but NO losing seasons.
Of the other 19 names on that list, just two of them only had one sub-.500 season -- Grover Cleveland Alexander (0-3, in his final season) and Eddie Plank (6-7, also in his final season). Then there was Pedro Martinez, who went 0-1 in just one start (plus one relief appearance) in his debut season of 1992 -- and didn't have another losing season until he went 5-6 for the 2008 Mets.
But Andy Pettitte? Not a one. The closest he came, aside from that 14-14 season, was an injury-riddled 6-4 year for the 2004 Astros. Pretty cool.
Now back to that original e-mail. Anybody want to guess that "bizarre exception" our man Gene was referring to? It was a guy named Babe Ruth. Perhaps you've heard of him.
Bet you didn't know that, if you establish absolutely no minimum for games pitched or started, the Babe had 10 winning seasons -- and no losing seasons, or even any seasons of exactly as many losses as wins.
Of course, he was only a full-time pitcher for five of those 10 seasons, and pitched just four times in another. But after he got to the Yankees, he still pitched in one or two games a year in four different seasons between 1920 and 1933 -- and never lost a game. Right, never. That included a COMPLETE-GAME win in 1933 -- at age 38.
I don't even think Pettitte's feat is as amazing as the Babe's, when you really think it through. And by the way, I also don't think it makes Pettitte a Hall of Famer. But I'll give him this: It's a heck of a claim to fame for us trivia-holics.
STRIKE TWO -- THE 200-100 CLUB
Loyal reader Kevin Pugliese also passed along a fascinating Andy Pettitte question:
It appears to me," he wrote, "that if your analysis of Pettitte is correct, he will become the first pitcher with 200+ wins and 100 more wins than losses to NOT get into the HOF. Is this something worth considering amongst all this Pettitte/HOF hoopla?
Well, it's definitely worth considering. But it's also not quite correct. In fact, according to the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, there are eight 200-game winners who (A) have at least 100 more wins than losses, and (B) aren't in the Hall of Fame:
Now if you peruse this list, what do you find? First off, seven of the eight names on it aren't even eligible for the Hall yet because they all just retired. We'll get to them in a minute.
The exception is Caruthers, who played from 1884-93 (before the mound was 60 feet from home plate) and had several seasons when he played almost as many games in the outfield as he spent on the mound. The Veterans Committee has considered him but never elected him.
But what about the other seven names? The guess here is that Pettitte is NOT going to be the only pitcher in that group who doesn't wind up with a plaque.
Maddux, Glavine, Johnson and Pedro ought to be locks. But Clemens is in trouble -- in more ways than one. And Mussina is no sure thing himself.
So I think we just might be hauling this list out again in a couple of years. At the moment, as Kevin Pugliese points out, there are no eligible pitchers in that 200-100 Club whose careers began after 1900 and are not in the Hall of Fame. But by the time Pettitte's name shows up on the 2015 ballot, that doesn't figure to be true anymore.
At any rate, we should all get the message from both of these e-mails: Andy Pettitte might not have been a clear-cut Hall of Famer. But there's one thing his numbers definitely prove he was:
STRIKE THREE -- PACK IT IN DEPT.
Finally, in an unrelated development, this is a note for Bud Selig. The commish, as you know, once owned the Brewers -- and still roots for the Packers. I was thinking of him the other day when the Packers won the Super Bowl. Here's why:
The Packers now have won 13 titles in their history.
The Brewers haven't even won 13 postseason GAMES in their history.
True story. The Brewers have been around since 1970. They've won no World Series -- and won a total of nine postseason games (out of 21 played).
Now let me say to all my friends and relatives in Wisconsin that I understand that could change this year. Gotta love what those Brewers have done with their rotation. Seriously.
But for now, I couldn't help but wonder: Is there any other market like this -- where the local pro football team has won more championships than the local baseball team has won postseason games?
My only qualification here was that the baseball team had to be in existence for at least as long as the Brewers. I then started combing through the records and came to this conclusion:
The Rangers would have qualified -- until they ripped off eight postseason wins last year to pass the Cowboys (five titles). But that's it.
Of the 18 other teams that fit, the Expos/Nationals were the only other tough call. They've won five postseason games in their existence -- all while they played in Montreal. But those Montreal Alouettes have won seven Grey Cups -- five of them while the Expos were still in town, eh? So at best, this is a dead heat.
At least the Nationals and Redskins are tied -- at zero -- since the Nationals moved to D.C. Does that count?
But no matter how you break it down, Packers versus Brewers remains the most one-sided football/baseball mismatch in our land.
More titles for the Packers than postseason wins for the Brewers. Wow.
And if THAT doesn't inspire Zack Greinke to go about 27-2 this year, I don't know what will.