Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Twenty Loss Season Isn't Always the Pitcher's Fault

Matt Cain is having a season to forget but the statisticians might look at it as a season to remember. Because he has a chance of maybe losing 20 games and in doing so will compile some pretty respectable numbers in accomplishing this dubious feat if the trend of April thru June continues for your 2007 San Francisco Giants (when Cain toes the slab).

Many pitchers have lost twenty (20) games as opposed to winning twenty. Some have done both.
As recently as 1979, Phil Niekro (Lance's uncle) was 21W 20L for the Atlanta Braves. In 1973, the Chicago White Sox had two twenty game losers in: Wilbur Wood at W24 L20, and Stan Bahnsen, (former rookie sensation for the New York Yankees) was W18 L 21.

Interestingly enough, most 20-game losers are pitchers whose names are familiar to even the casual fan. It's really quite unfortunate that this durable player, who has played a few years and aside from his won/loss record is actually consistent in his efforts but for some unknown reason seems to be the recipient of very little support, either offensively or defensively.

One exception to this rule is when a pitcher has the unenviable task of pitching for an expansion team. The team: San Diego Padres. The year was 1972 and the Padres were awful. (They went from Pacific Coast League to Major Leagues in 1969 and their won/loss records were hapless. In 1969 they were 52-110, 1970: 63-99; 1971: 61-100; 1972: 58-95; 1973 and 1974 they had identical records of 60-102.)

The pitcher was Steve Arlin, from Ohio State University. A former number one pick of the Philadelphia Phillies back in 1966 (13th overall). He pitched 12 complete games and his record was 10W 21L, with an ERA of 3.60. In 250 innings pitched he allowed 217 hits. 9 batters were hit by his pitch and 15 were scored as wild. A league leading number, at that. He had to have some release for all of his frustrations. Perhaps a little serenity now for the career W34 L67 hurler.

If some Giants' fans are thi
nking maybe Matt Cain is getting the worst support ever from his major league teammates, think again. The all-time worst support given to a pitcher happened during the Dead Ball Era. In 1916, Hall of Famer, Walter "Big Train" Johnson posted a W25-20L record, despite having an earned run average of 1.90 and completing 36 of 38 starts on a team that finished with a record of 76W and 77L. (Stay Tuned.)

Roger Craig, the Giant fans' beloved Humm Baby, while pitching for the expansion New York Mets went a very dismal W-5 L-22 in 1963, even though he pitched 14 complete games and posted an earned run average of 3.78. And this was after the horrific 1962 NY Mets season when both Humm Baby and Al Jackson lost 20 games. Hard to believe he didn't let his dobber down.

Miracle Mets' ace lefty, Jerry Koosman posted an 8W 20L season for the Mets in 1977, while posting an ERA of 3.49. But he bounced back with a 20-win season in 1979 for the Minnesota Twins.

A pitcher has to be good to be given the opportunity to continue to take the ball each time his turn comes around in the rotation. The manager and his coaches know if this bad luck pitcher had any support he'd be flipping the wins and losses around. In fact, you could say that it's a good bet a pitcher who got charged with 20 losses probably wouldn't have gotten the opportunity if he wasn't that good. So maybe part of the blame should be directed toward his manager for penciling in his name every fourth or fifth day.

Here's a thought...
Could it be, the manager was trying to deflect some of the boo-birds and bad publicity he was receiving by putting in the pitcher who was always there to take the ball, regardless of the outcome? If this is true this Bud's for the pitcher and a Jan Stenerud/Morten Andersen swift-kick in butt goes to the manager. (Not to the left, not to the right, but right in the groove!)