Every now and then, while doing the player bios for the “This Date” articles, I will find a pitcher who has a record one season that defies logic. He will either have a great record for a bad team or a bad record for a good team. I figured I’d take a look at the ten worst seasons in Pirates franchise history and see which pitcher that year had the best record, then try out the opposite, starting with the bad teams and it doesn’t get much worse than the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys.
1890: 23-113 record .169 winning percentage. The team had just one pitcher with a winning record among it’s 22 players that took the mound that year. Henry Jones went 2-1 in his four starts. I’m going to go with a minimum of five wins(or losses for the bad) or ten decisions for this article though, so the honor goes to Billy Gumbert with his 4-6 record.
1952: 42-112 .273%. Ted Wilks 5-5. He was a reliever the whole season, pitching 44 games out of the bullpen
1884: 30-78 .278% During the team’s third year in existence, playing in the American Association, they had a rough beginning as you will see shortly. Fluery Sullivan went 16-35 for a .314 winning percentage while Jack Neagle at 11-26 was the only other pitcher with more than seven decisions. Sullivan’s 35 losses are a franchise single season record
1883: 31-67 .316% This was the start of the two year stretch of very poor play in Pittsburgh. Don’t blame Denny Driscoll though, he went 18-21 while the rest of the team went 13-46.
1953: 50-104 .325% Roy Face pulled off a 6-8 record with a 6.58 ERA while Bob Friend wasn’t far behind at 8-11 with a 4.90 ERA. The rest of the team was 36-85
1917: 51-103 .331% Wilbur Cooper was the pitcher that gave me the idea for this article. He went 17-11, winning a third of the team’s victories that year but everyone else combined for 34-92.
1954: 53-101 .344% Dick Littlefield went 10-11 for the last of three straight 100 loss Pirates teams.
2010: 57-105 .352% Where would the team have been without Evan Meek and his 5-4 record…still in last place actually.
1985: 57-104 .354% Rick Reuschel went 14-8 thanks to his 2.27 ERA. Everyone else went 43-96 and none of the other 17 pitchers had a winning record.
1950: 57-96 .373% We have a tie here, Cliff Chambers at 12-15 and Bill Macdonald at 8-10 each had a .444 winning percentage Macdonald was a 21 year old rookie that never won another major league game.
The Bad for the Good:
1902: 103-36 .741% Poor Sam Leever with his 15-7 record getting called out here. Somehow a 24 year old rookie named Harvey Cushman went 0-4 in four starts. Not surprisingly, he never played in the majors again.
1909: 110-42 .724% It’s hard to find bad for such a great team. Nick Maddox went 13-8, leaving his winning percentage 121 points below the rest of the team. A rookie named Bill Powell, at 0-1, was the only pitcher with a losing record.
1903: 91-49 .650% Brickyard Kennedy went 9-6 which wasn’t bad but a handful of rookies, Cy Falkenberg, Lew Moren, Jack Pfiester and Doc Scanlan combined for a 1-10 record on this great team
1901: 91-50 .647% Jesse Tannehill at 18-10 had a .643 winning percentage, worst among the regular four starters. Ed Poole went 5-4 in his 10 starts while Hall of Famer Rube Waddell lost his only two starts.
1908: 98-56 636% Lefty Leifield went 15-14 with a 2.10 ERA. Hard to explain that run support he got.
1893: 81-48 628% Red Ehret went 18-18 and had a losing record in his other two seasons with the Pirates.
1905: 96-57 .627% The sixth team from the 1901-09 era on this list had two pitchers go .500 on the year. Charlie Case went 11-11 with a 2.57 ERA while Patsy Flaherty went 10-10.
1925: 95-58 .621% The second team to win the World Series in franchise history did it with 43 year old Babe Adams going 6-5 and Johnny Morrison right behind him at 17-14
1972: 96-59 .619% Part-time starter Luke Walker went 4-6 while three regular starters finished in the .560-.565 winning percentage range. Bruce Kison 9-7, Nelson Briles 14-11 and Bob Moose 13-10
1960: 95-59 .617% No losing records for the team to win the third title in franchise history but Harvey Haddix came close at 11-10+ posts
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.