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Pittsburgh Pirates Twenty Game Winners


In the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise, 62 times they have had a pitcher win 20 games in a season. The list includes many multiple names, including Ray Kremer who was featured today. He won exactly 20 games in both 1926 and 1930. Since 1930, there have been just eight 20 win seasons for the Pirates. That means the first 48 years the franchise existed, they were averaging more than one 20 win pitcher per season. The list of eight players to accomplish this feat since 1930 is as follows:

1991: John Smiley, 20
1990: Doug Drabek, 22
1977: John Candelaria, 20
1960: Vern Law, 20
1958: Bob Friend, 22
1951: Murry Dickson, 20
1944: Rip Sewell, 21
1943: Rip Sewell, 21

The last time the Pirates had two 20 game winners in the same season was 1926 when Lee Meadows joined Kremer with 20 wins apiece. It has happened a total of 16 times in team history but one of those seasons they took it even a step further. The 1902 Pirates are arguably the best team in franchise history. They have the highest single season winning percentage thanks to their 103-36 record and their pitching staff was loaded with talent that year. They had Jack Chesbro, a Hall of Fame pitcher that won 28 games that year. They had Deacon Phillippe and Jesse Tannehill, who each won 20 games. They also had Sam Leever, one of the best pitchers in team history, he won 15 games and Ed Doheny, their fifth best starter went 16-4.

In 1886, the team’s last year in the American Association before moving to the National League, they just missed having two 30 win pitchers. Ed Morris set the franchise record with 41 wins that season in 63 starts. Pud Galvin, another Hall of Famer, won 29 games in his 50 starts. The Alleghenys had just 27 starts from other pitchers that season. Morris had won 39 games the previous season. Frank Killen holds the franchise record since moving to the NL in 1887 with his 36 wins in 1893. He also topped the 30 win mark in 1896. Pink Hawley is the only other 30 game winner in franchise history, he won 31 in 1895.

When the Pirates finished in first place, they didn’t always have a 20 game winner on their staff. During the 16 seasons they either won the NL pennant or won the NL East title, they had a 20 game winner in just half of those seasons. In fact, three of the years they won the World Series, 1925,1971 and 1979, they didn’t have a 20 game winner. Lee Meadows led the 1925 team with 19 wins, Dock Ellis had 19 in 1971 and the 1979 Pirates didn’t even have a 15 game winner. John Candelaria led the way with 14 wins.

A total of 31 different Pirates pitchers have won 20 games, sixteen of them had multiple 20 win seasons. Vic Willis, the third Hall of Famer on this list, won 20 or more games in all four seasons he spent in a Pirates uniform. Galvin, Tannehill, Wilbur Cooper and Leever also won 20 games four times while Phillippe did it five times. The least likely multiple time 20 game winner was likely Al Mamaux, who won 42 games between 1915-16 and 34 games over his other ten seasons in the majors. The least likely one time player on the list was Harry Salisbury, the first pitcher to accomplish the feat back in 1882, the first season in franchise history. He had pitched ten games in the majors in 1879, the extent of his big league career up to that point. He went 20-18 in 1882 then never pitched in the majors again.

Finally, exactly 100 seasons ago, the 1912 Pirates had Claude Hendrix with 24 wins and Howie Camnitz with 22 wins. The team has gone the last 1/5 of that stretch since the 1912 season without a 20 game winner, the longest stretch in franchise history.

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John Dreker
John Dreker
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.

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