Friday, 11 April 2008

A Challenge

We like stats here and I like historical stats, too. It got me thinking...

One of the cooler baseball trivia questions is this: which two 20th century teams had four 20 game winners in their rotations?

The first one you wouldn't come up with without the aid of a computer or stats almanac. The 1920 White Sox had the following fearsome foursome:

Red Faber: 23-13, 219 IP, 2.99 ERA w/ ERA+ of 125
Lefty Williams: 22-14, 299 IP, 3.91 ERA w/ ERA+ of 96
Eddie Cicotte: 21-10, 303.3 IP, 3.26 ERA w/ ERA+ of 115
Dickie Kerr: 21-9, 253.7 IP, 3.37 ERA w/ ERA+ 111

Ironically, they didn't even win the AL pennant that year, which was probably for the best seeing as how they'd sullied the game with their cheating scandal a year earlier. Consult your local library or ask a WWI vet if you'd like to learn more!

The second club on our list is within living memory for some of you, or you might've heard about it second hand from your old man on one of those rare occasions when he wasn't going on about the time he saw Harmon Killebrew sock two dingers onto the roof in Tiger Stadium in one game.

The 1971 Orioles were the last team to do it with this studtacular grouping:

* Mike Cuellar: 20-9, 292.3 IP, 3.08 ERA w/ ERA+ of 109
* Pat Dobson: 20-8, 282.3 IP, 2.90 ERA w/ ERA+ of 116
* Jim Palmer:
20-9, 282 IP, 2.68 ERA w/ ERA+ of 125
* Dave McNally: 21-5, 224.3 IP, 2.89 ERA w/ ERA+ 116

Despite finishing first in the AL in ERA and runs scored, Earl Weaver's crew sadly lost the World Series to the then not-lowly Pirates in seven games. And now you know the rest of the story.

I do realize that the "W" is an antiquated stat, but like a pair of silicon DD boobies it does tend to grab one's attention. So, how do we translate this accomplishment for the 21st Century? In this era of seven men in the pen, LOOGYs, setup men and closers, I'd say having four starters logging superior ERA+s (125, 116, 116, 109) in 200 or more IP would do it. That's no mean, feat, kids.

Could the 2008 Jays do it? Halladay should best Palmer with little difficulty. Burnett's best four ERA+s were 122, 119, 115 and 115, but he's only reached 200 IP twice in his 10-year career. He could outperform Dobson/McNally. McGowan, who many expect to improve this year, had an ERA+ of 109 in 2007 and threw about 190 IP between the bigs and AAA. Marcum had a 108 ERA+ last year in 159 innings, was much improved in the rotation than the pen and was shut down early in September due to a knee injury. Jesse Litsch is probably the least likely to get injured this year and put up an ERA+ of 117 in '07 despite a good bit of smoke and mirrors success.

The requisite combination of health and results required to meet my criteria for besting the '71 Orioles rotation make it an extreme long shot for four of Doc/Burnett/McG/Marcum/Litsch to reach such lofty heights, but I throw it out there as a challenge nonetheless.

I'm watching the game on a Rangers feed and the commentators are drunk on homerism, but I've got to give it to the colour guy for dryly questioning "Separated at birth possibly?" when Ernie Whitt leaned over to whisper something in Matt Stairs' ear at first base.

-- Johnny Was

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