Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One thing is for sure you will not see another 300 game winner for at least 15-20 years. I don't think there will be one for at least 25-30 years which means some of us won't be around to see it happen. Not unless they change the rule and a pitcher can qualify for a win by going three or four innings instead of five. That way you'll see starters pitching every 3-4 days and having 40+ starts. In fact the way it is now with pitch counts they almost could go to three man rotations now! When that happens you'll see a good pitcher on a good team win 30.......and yes, losing 20 games will lose it's well deserved respect (that sounded much better than saying it will become as common as pig trash

Randy Johnson is the oldest pitcher to reach the 300 win mark at 45 years old. Warren Spahn who won more games, 363, than any other left-handed pitcher in history and was 40 years old when he became a 300 game winner. Where was Pud Galvin at 45? Dead.

Spahn's Record by Age Johnson's Record by Age
Age 29 86-58 24-29 68-56
Age 30-39 202-124 30-39 168-58
Age 40-44 75-63 40-45 70-50
Who are the best candidates to reach 300 wins? Jamie Moyer is closest with 250 wins but at 46 he would most likely have to pitch until he was at least 50 to reach the milestone. Roy Halladay recently won his 140th game. Halladay is 32 and would have to average 16 wins a year for the next 10 years to get to 300. It is interesting to note that Johnson was Halladay's age, he had 104 wins. He didn't have a 20-win season until age 33. So Halladay is almost 40 wins ahead of Randy Johnson's pace.
Halladay may be ahead of Johnson's pace, but it is highly unlikely he will be able to match Johnson's ability to get better with age. One of the most remarkable aspects of Randy Johnson's career is just how good he was after age 32. Over the next 12 years, from age 33 to 44 Johnson won 191 games an average of 16 games a year, won 6 Cy Young Awards and became the oldest pitcher to throw at perfect game at age 40. Randy Johnson won more games in his 40's than he did in his 20's. Johnson became the first pitcher in big league history to fan 300 or more batters in five straight seasons ('98-02 ages 34-38) and struck out 20 batters in a game at age 37.
Johnson's performance after age 32 is even more impressive than Roger Clemens (354 career wins) who from age 33 to 44 won 186 games an average of 15.5 wins per year and won 4 Cy Young awards. Let's hope Johnson doesn't join the growing list of surprises that includes A-Rod and Manny.
Others in pursuit of 300 wins:
1.Jamie Moyer (46) 250
2.Andy Pettitte (37) 220
3.Pedro Martinez (37) 214
4.John Smoltz (42) 210
5.Tim Wakefield (42) 185
6.Bartolo Colon (36) 153
7.Livan Hernandez (34) 151
8.Kevin Millwood (34) 147
9.Tim Hudson (33) 146
10.Mike Hampton (36) 145

My pitching philosophy is simple - keep the ball way from the bat. Satchel Paige

Only two pitchers can claim membership in this elite club Pud Galvin (310) and Cy Young (316). You have to admit you have to pretty good to be able to lose 300 games. Nolan Ryan lost 292 games. Almost seems a shame to have come that far, and NOT lose 300.

On July 19, 1910, Young became the first pitcher (and last) to win 500 games.

A great online biography of Cy can be found here:

This is a late and unexpected addition to the Geezerball Gazette. I came across a recent article about Rickey Henderson being a Hall of Fame teammate and it caught my attention. So I decided to read it. Rickey was my teammate in the minor leagues and in Oakland. He was a great teammate on the field as well as off the field.

I never expected to come across what I was reading however, it was quite a surprise. It was something that happened to me 27 years ago in a bar in Kansas City.

Rickey's public perception is perhaps skewed by his propensity to refer to himself in the third person. The humorous "Rickey' stories might make you think Rickey is a happy go lucky flake are misleading. Rickey has always been a hard worker and very serious about baseball. He also was a very loyal teammate and as you can see from this account he had a good sense of right and wrong, as well as the strength of character to do something about it, even in a situation where he had nothing at all to gain.

Rickey Henderson as Hall of Fame Teammate:
Two versions, same story:
Billy Martin's Ring Record

Date Opponent Outcome Record
May '52 JIMMY PIERSALL Martin by TKO 1-0
July '52 CLINT COURTNEY Martin by decision
April '53 CLINT COURTNEY Martin by decision 3-0
July '53 MATT BATTS No decision 3-0
May '56 TOMMY LASORDA Martin by decision 4-0
May '57 THE COPACABANA INCIDENT Martin traded 4-1
Aug. '60 JIM BREWER Martin by TKO 5-1
July '66 HOWARD FOX/trav. Sec Martin by decision
Aug. '69 DAVE BOSWELL Martin by KO 7-1
April '71 REGGIE SMITH No decision 7-1
April '72 JACK SEARS, fan Martin by decision 8-1
Sept. '74 BURT HAWKINS trav. sec. Martin by decision 9-1
Nov. '78 RAY HAGAR, writer Martin by TKO 10-1
Oct. '79 JOSEPH COOPER, marshmallow Martin by TKO 11-1
Jun '82 BRIAN KINGMAN Kingman by KO 11-2
Aug. '82 OFFICE WALL Wall by TKO 11-3
June '83 PORCELAIN URINAL Martin by TKO 12-3
Sept. '85 ED WHITSON
Whitson by decision 13-4

Billy Martin went through life with a chip on his shoulder. A psychological profile of Martin would probably reveal that his brash and abrasive manner masked a severe inferiority complex and feelings of inadequacy. If anyone was ever afflicted with "little man syndrome," it was Billy.

Martin's first fight was with Jimmy Piersall.

Jimmy Piersall of Boston was a rookie in 1952. He would later go on to write a book "The Truth Hurts" and say: "Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Whoever heard of Jimmy Piersall, until that happened?
But he was "heard of" as a result of what happened that season. "Hey, the Red Sox outfielder had the audacity, some said, the ignorance, to shout out during a game to Billy Martin of the Yankees: "Hey, Pinocchio!" It was an overt and obnoxious reference to the size and contours of the Yankee second baseman's nose." Too damn yellow to fight?" "Put up," snarled Martin, "or shut up your damn ass. Let's settle this under the stands right now!"
The hyper Martin entered the Yankee dugout. Piersall sped into the Sox dugout, and then circled under the stands lusting for the violent rendezvous. Martin was trailed after by Yankee coach Bill Dickey. Ellis Kinder, a Boston hurler, ran after Piersall.
The two hot-headed athletes faced off, both full of fury. There were some more unprintable words that spewed forth from Martin and Piersall. Then, Martin jabbed two powerful shots to Piersall's face. Bleeding profusely from the nose, the Boston outfielder dropped quickly to the ground. The one-sided battle ended as Dickey and Kinder moved between the two combatants.
Jim Brewer
On August 4, 1960, Martin, then playing for the Reds, charged the mound in the second inning after receiving a brushback pitch from Chicago Cubs pitcher Jim Brewer. Martin threw his bat at Brewer, who picked up the bat and started to hand it to Martin as he approached. Martin punched Brewer in the right eye, breaking his cheekbone. Brewer was hospitalized for two months, and Martin served a five-day suspension.
Dave Boswell Boswell
Early in August of 1969, in the midst of a pennant race, Dave Boswell mysteriously disappeared from the Twins’ traveling party. On August 10 in Baltimore, questions were answered when manager Billy Martin called a press conference to discuss Boswell’s absence.
At the conference, Martin reported that Boswell had attacked him outside of the Lindell Athletic Club in Detroit. As Martin told the story, he had learned that Boswell had hit Bob Allison in the parking lot and was on his way out to break up the fight. When he arrived on the scene, according to Martin, Boswell came after him with arms swinging. In self defense, Martin, a famous baseball fighter, eventually knocked his pitcher out.
The results of the fight read like a list of boxing injuries. Boswell was taken to the hospital and eventually needed 20 stitches. Martin needed seven stitches on his knuckle and had a bruised rib, while Bob Allison sported a black eye and required some dental work.
The day after Martin’s press conference Boswell told The Sporting News his side of the story. Boswell reported that he never went after Martin, rather that he was busy trying to keep the much bigger Allison down after throwing the first punch.
Martin didn’t sound all that remorseful. As quoted in The Sporting News:
“Boswell doesn't have to apologize to me,” Martin said, “I know I had to do it once to a manager when I was a kid and it was embarrassing. That’s why I didn't want him to come to the ballpark in Baltimore. It might have been embarrassing with all those cuts on his face.”
Martin vs Kingman: Billy's Loses for First Time in 25 Years
The next pitcher Martin would encounter when feeling a little too feisty would turned out to be me. Martin would suffer his first defeat since the incident at the Copacabana on May 16,1957.

Martin was well known for drinking to excess and for rowdy behavior when drinking. A group of Yankees met at the famous Copacabana nightclub to celebrate Martin's 29th birthday; the party ultimately erupted into a much publicized brawl, which resulted in Billy being traded to the Kansas City A's. This would run his 'fight record" to 4-1, as well as separate him from his beloved Yankees and his best friend Mickey Mantle.
Then 25 years after the Copa, and 13 years after his fight with Dave Boswell, Billy entered uncharted waters. In June of 1982 while the Oakland A's were on a road trip in Kansas City Billy got into a heated conversation with me that he felt he wanted to finish outside.
Whereas Boswell was a 20 game winner in 1969 (also the year of his fight with Billy) I was a 20 game loser. Never, I repeat NEVER! underestimate the underlying rage and frustrations that losing 20 games can produce. Especially with a 20 game loser who had been seething over being called a dummy for pitch selection by his manager, who had called the pitches! That was our topic of conversation that wonderful night in Kansas City.
Once outside on that humid night in Kansas City I was ready for Billy's renowned cheap shot antics. I also knew there was little to no danger. If Billy even landed a punch it was unlikely to have much of an impact. He enjoyed his reputation as a fighter, and wearing his black cowboy hat. I respected all of that and the fact that he was a great manager (on the field) but no, I'm sorry, ain't no one gonna be kicking my ass.....with just a big mouth a cowboy hat and a reputation. They're gonna have to bring it on!
So there we were face to face with Billy's coaches nearby for his protection. He was yelling at me and I yelled back at him. Then he started to jab his finger in my chest. After the second or third time poking me in the chest, sure enough, here came the sucker punch. But I was waiting for it and grabbed his arm gave it a twist and had him in a head lock. I handed him to a coach for safe keeping, just as the rest of the coaches were jumping in to separate us. Art Fowler the pitching coach punched me in the face but I believe it was for Billy to see and hear about as evidence of Art coming to his defense, because there was nothing behind the punch.
Rickey was there but I think he was just trying to keep from laughing at this point. But I was glad he was there for two reasons. One was that you never know what can happen and two, you never know what the "official version" of what happened will be unless you have at least one credible witness. Rickey was willing to get involved even though he had nothing to gain and that should tell you all you need to know about Rickey as a teammate.
The next day I gave Art a thank you card and offering a rematch signed "Muhammad Ali Kingman" and we all laughed about it. Well at least Art and I did. Yes I am calling it a KO because that was the ultimate outcome if the fight hadn't been ME!
Later that year Billy took on the wall in his office, but we decided the wall won from the look of Billy's hands and his defeated look that night.
I did hear that Billy got the better of a porcelain urinal the next season. Can't imagine what the urinal did to piss him off, but I am sure they had an interesting conversation before it came to blows. In 1985 Ed Whitson administered Billy's final ass kicking, helping to avenge the losses incurred by Tommy Lasorda, Jim Brewer and Dave Boswell who I am sure were all smiling when they heard the news. I know I was.

If Reggie and Billy would have "gotten it on" in 1978, Billy might have reached his final resting spot even earlier than he eventually did.

"I'm getting smarter, I finally punched something that couldn't sue me."--Billy Martin as A's manager on breaking his finger after punching a piece of furniture, quoted in Sports Illustrated, September 6, 1982

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Whatever Happened To The Complete Game?

******Pud Galvin*************Cy Young***************Old Hoss******

In 1879 Will White of the Cincinnati Reds completed all 75 of his starts. Ever since then it has been all downhill for the complete game. In 1884 Pud Galvin completed 71 of his 72 starts but finished second in complete games to Old Hoss Radbourn who completed all 73 of his starts. Old Hoss also managed to win a record 59 games that season which is still the single season record for wins.

Cy Young has won (511) and completed (749) more games than any other pitcher in the history of baseball. His record of 511 wins is considered one of baseballs unbreakable records, but the truth is his 749 complete games is even further out of reach.

Leon Cadore *** Joe Oeschger
Pitchers of earlier generations had a belief that ‘this game is mine". The idea of doing permanent harm to a pitcher’s arm wasn't on anyone’s mind. In 1920 Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger each threw 26 innings in a 1-1 tie called because of darkness. No one was concerned about pitch counts back then, but historians estimate that Cadore threw 345 pitches and Oeschger 319

In 1963 Juan Marichal defeated Warren Spahn 1-0 in a 16 inning game that ended with a Willie Mays homerun. They both threw over 200 pitches.

It was common for good pitchers in baseball's early years to complete 90% of their starts. Two man rotations also meant getting 70-75 starts. 40 years ago it was not uncommon for top starting pitchers to throw 300+ innings and complete a majority of their starts. Today if a pitcher throws 200+ innings he is called an 'Ironman', and a complete game occurs in less than 5% of all starts.

Has the game really changed that much?

Well the answer is yes. Maybe evolved is more accurate. What we are seeing is the cumulative effects of changes to the rules of the game, the economics of the game, pitching strategy and philosophy and equipment (the ball) that have occurred over the past 130 or so years.

Ever since the beginning of organized baseball it seems there has been a conspiracy against pitchers. They are not only outnumbered by position players but of course by the fans who the owners feel come to see the excitement of runs being scored.

Virtually every rule change over the years has favored the hitter rather than the pitcher making it increasingly more difficult to get hitters out. When Pud and Old Hoss were terrorizing opposing hitters and completing all of those games they did it from a distance of 50 feet. That was changed in 1893 to 60 feet 6 inches, where it remains today. The spitball was outlawed and a cork center was added to the baseball making it more lively and ending the 'Dead Ball Era" and ushering in Babe Ruth and the "Live Ball Era".

1968 is known as the Year of the Pitcher. Bob Gibson threw 13 shutouts and had an ERA of 1.12. Denny McClain became baseball's first (and last) 30 game winner since Dizzy Dean, winning 31 games. Don Drysdale threw a then record 58 2/3 scoreless innings. The AL's bating average was an all-time low .231 and the NL average was almost as bad at .243.

It was time to change the rules again. Batting averages weren't the only thing that was down. Owners fearing a lack of fan interest in low scoring games decided what the game needed was more offense. Charlie Finley is quoted as saying "The average fan comes to the park to see action, home runs. He doesn't come to see a one-, two-, three- or four-hit game. I can't think of anything more boring than to see a pitcher come up, when the average pitcher can't hit my grandmother"

Charles Finley
Following 'The Year of the Pitcher' the mound was lowered 5 inches and strike zone was officially reduced in size and conventionally reduced even more, The rule book says it should be from the top of the batters knees to the bottom of his arm pits. However you rarely see a called strike above a hitters belt buckle. In 1973 the Designated Hitter was introduced.
Over the years teams added more starting pitchers to there rotations in order to get more rest between starts. Rotations went from 3 to 4 to the present day 5 man rotations. While the number of starts and innings pitched may have declined, it had also become harder to get hitters out. The increased offensive production over the last 15 years means more pitches per batter and more batters per game. Data on old-time pitch counts is hard to find, but in 1932, Baseball Magazine reported that the average nine-inning game saw about 115 pitches. Today it's around 150. That means that what got you through nine innings back then now only gets you into the seventh.

There has been a growing importance and use of the relief pitcher over the last 30 years. It is one of the most dramatic changes in the game. With the increasing pitch totals required to throw a complete game the necessity for relief specialists has developed. Each team now has set up men and a closer.The average number of pitchers used by a team in a game has grown from two to over around four since the late 1970's.

Economics also has played a role in the decline of the complete game. Teams have huge financial stakes in their starting pitching, much more than they had invested back in the day. No one wants to see one of these high priced guys get injured and certainly no one wants to be accused of overworking them.

On June 14, 1974, Nolan Ryan threw 235 pitches in a 13-inning start against the Red Sox.
"It obviously ruined his arm because he had to retire 19 years later," statistics guru Bill James later told the Los Angeles Times.

Here is an except from the Minneapolis Star Tribune this spring:

Pitchers aren't invincible. Billy Martin learned the hard way in 1980, when he took over a Oakland team with a thin bullpen and pushed his starters to the extreme.

Five young pitchers in their 20's -- Rick Langford, Mike Norris, Matt Keough, Steve McCatty and my favorite, Brian Kingman -- completed 93 starts. Bob Lacey also started a game and completed it giving the A's a total of 94 complete games, the modern day record. But when those workhorses broke down, it served as a warning for all managers.

Yes, ironically the 1980 Oakland A's pitching staff which gained notoriety for completing so many games gained may have played a significant role in the decline of the complete game. The same pitchers received almost as much attention for their rapid decline which was attributed to overuse. Soon thereafter pitch counts which had been around for a long time became a way to monitor a pitchers overuse. Today many teams will limit a starter to a certain number of pitches, usually around 100, which makes throwing complete game a rarity.

By the late 1980s, Oakland manager Tony La Russa had changed the way bullpens were used, exploiting lefty-lefty and righty-righty matchups before handing off to closer Dennis Eckersley. In 1990, pitch counts began appearing in USA Today's expanded box scores, holding managers even more accountable for their decisions.

The the historical decline of the complete game:

In the 19th Century Era (1876-1900), starting pitchers completed games 90 percent of the time. In the Dead Ball Era (1901-1919), starting pitchers completed games 67 percent of the time.
In the Live Ball Era (1920-1941), starting pitchers completed games 47 percent of the time.
In the Integration Era (1942-1960), starting pitchers completed games 37 percent of the time.
In the Expansion Era (1961-1976), starting pitchers completed games 26 percent of the time.
In the Free Agency Era (1977-1992), starting pitchers completed games 15 percent of the time.
In the Steroid Era (1993-2005), starting pitchers completed games 8 percent of the time.
In the Present Era (2006- 2008), starting pitchers competed games less than 5 percent of the time